Monday, October 27, 2014

Review: How We Fall by Kate Brauning

Title: How We Fall
Author: Kate Brauning
Publisher: Merit Press
Release date: November 3rd 2014
Pages: 304
Genre: Young Adult contemporary romance/mystery
Source: BEA 2014
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Ever since Jackie moved to her uncle's sleepy farming town, she's been flirting way too much--and with her own cousin, Marcus.
Her friendship with him has turned into something she can't control, and he's the reason Jackie lost track of her best friend, Ellie, who left one knows where. Now Ellie has been missing for months, and the police, fearing the worst, are searching for her body. Swamped with guilt and the knowledge that acting on her love for Marcus would tear their families apart, Jackie pushes her cousin away. The plan is to fall out of love, and, just as she hoped he would, Marcus falls for the new girl in town. But something isn't right about this stranger, and Jackie's suspicions about the new girl's secrets only drive the wedge deeper between Jackie and Marcus--and deepens Jackie's despair.
Then Marcus is forced to pay the price for someone else's lies as the mystery around Ellie's disappearance starts to become horribly clear. Jackie has to face terrible choices. Can she leave her first love behind, and can she go on living with the fact that she failed her best friend?
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I really liked the romance in How We Fall. I loved Tabitha Suzuma's Forbidden, a romance between brother and sister, so the whole cousins thing didn't really faze me. I absolutely loved Jackie and Marcus together; Jackie is a compelling character that I definitely related to, and Marcus is a dynamic love interest. The two of them have great chemistry, and I loved seeing them together for the first part of the novel. Honestly, though, I enjoyed the part after they had broken up even more; what happens after a break-up (or even just a break) is so rarely explored in YA that I loved seeing it here. Their issues are intriguing to read about, and I loved seeing them struggle with their emotions. 

The mystery surrounding Ellie's disappearance was the part I was most excited for, since I love contemporary YA mysteries that incorporate an emotional aspect as well. But sadly, this storyline didn't turn out to be as great as I'd hoped. Honestly, it just didn't get enough attention, since the focus remains on the romance. I don't think Jackie's feelings about Ellie's disappearance are fleshed out enough; she'll mention Ellie and talk about her for a paragraph or too, but then she'll just go back to talking about Marcus, and even during the important scenes of the mystery, Jackie and Marcus still manage to talk about their relationship rather than what's at stake. I know the romance is the main storyline, but Jackie's lack of palpable grief for Ellie bothered me. We know almost nothing about Ellie, and to justify this mystery storyline, their past would have had to be a lot more fleshed out. As for the mystery, I really liked the early parts; Kate Brauning expertly creates suspense when Jackie notices the first clues. But the resolution and the action-filled scene towards the end felt kind of lackluster to me; they're not bad, they're just predictable and not very original. It's also a bit too coincidental how the mystery ties into Jackie's and Marcus's lives. 

***This paragraph contains spoilers.***
The ending really bothered me. I know I'm weird for not liking happy endings, and I should have gotten used to books ending this way by now. I don't really know why; maybe because How We Fall addresses the problems Jackie and Marcus have once they break up so well, but I had hoped this would be different from the typical, oversimplified happy ending. I have no problem with the two of them getting together, since of course that's what the whole book is about. But considering how much time Jackie and Marcus spend discussing how people might react, I had hoped we would actually get to see some of that. Instead, we just get to see them decide to really be together, without any exploration of how that's going to work. The whole issue of them potentially breaking up and having the most awkward exes set-up of all time just kind of disappears. Will and Claire ending up together felt really forced, too, and just added to the issue of tying things up to neatly. I get that I'm in the minority here and a lot of readers will like this optimistic ending, but I just don't think it does justice to this story.

The writing is... okay. I really liked Jackie's voice, and the writing is strong for the most part. But How We Fall still very much reads like a first novel, with some clunky wordings that made me cringe. It also bothered me how much it flits back and forth between different storylines; sometimes, Jackie's thought process just doesn't seem very realistic.

With aspects I loved and parts I found underwhelming, How We Fall was an okay read for me. I did enjoy it, and I'll keep my eye out for whatever Kate Brauning writes next, but I'm not going out of my way to recommend How We Fall, either. It's an entertaining read, but it's not going on my list of favorites or anything.


  1. Oooh... cousin romance... I don't think I'm going to be able to handle that... especially not if the mystery isn't well done. Thanks for sharing this review!


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