When a deadly virus begins to sweep through sixteen-year-old Kaelyn’s community, the government quarantines her island—no one can leave, and no one can come back.
Those still healthy must fight for dwindling supplies, or lose all chance of survival. As everything familiar comes crashing down, Kaelyn joins forces with a former rival and discovers a new love in the midst of heartbreak. When the virus starts to rob her of friends and family, she clings to the belief that there must be a way to save the people she holds dearest.
Because how will she go on if there isn’t?
Megan Crewe crafts a powerful and gripping exploration of self-preservation, first love, and hope. Poignant and dizzying, this heart-wrenching story of one girl’s bravery and unbeatable spirit will leave readers fervently awaiting the next book in this standout new series.
You can read an excerpt here.
I think I have to call The Way We Fall – a story about a viral outbreak and the ways in which it unravels the life of a teen girl – a pre-dystopian. Given how many dystopain novels have disappointed me of late, it was lovely to encounter a story that could happen tomorrow, no zombies required. That said, while I found this to be a pleasant, interesting read, in the end this book left me feeling a little…neutral.
I’m not a reader who is particularly for or against epistolary novels, so I was perfectly happy to read a story told in a series of journal entries. It worked well as a narrative device, giving a nice personal flavor to the disaster situation, but it also created – for better and for worse – a feeling of safety. I wasn’t really ever worried Kaelyn was going to die, no matter how dicey her situation, because I always could see just how much more of the book was left to read, and for me it deflated the story a bit. Yes, in any novel we usually have a pretty good idea the main character is going to survive, but even the illusion of danger adds spice, and I felt the lack of it in this story – especially as it’s a story that lives and dies on the question of who will survive. As for Kaelyn herself, I liked her struggle to change the things about herself she didn’t like, but her angst over her “lost love” was a little, well, melodramatic for my taste, and I wasn’t really won over until the viral outbreak started gaining momentum. Once things started unraveling, Kaelyn was a nice anchor, reacting realistically and honestly to her situation, and I enjoyed how her story gave us a very personal, on the ground view of the what life was like in the disaster zone, and yet…while Kaelyn was well enough, her personality never really left a strong impression on me. She was just…fine.
The strength of this story lies in its tension, in how it plays on the interminable wait for looming disaster to strike. The pacing is fairly sedate, and so the narrative really lives in pregnant pauses, and in how hope and despair battle in those moments. I really enjoyed the sense of looming threat, and how it almost felt surreal at times even as it was so patently realistic. Crewe does a lovely job exploring how a small town simultaneously can come together and fall apart, and how people – friends, enemies, and strangers – come so sharply into focus through the lens of crises. It was wonderful to watch Kaelyn’s relationships evolve under duress, but as for the romance, it was…fine. And that’s it. The pairing didn’t do anything to incite my ire, but it just didn’t particularly move me either. It was just…fine.
On the technical end, when it comes to viral outbreak stories I am unbelievably spoiled by Mira Grant’s Newsflesh series, which is brilliant in its technical detail – and so this story felt a little light to me in comparison. Is it believable? Yes. Was the technical end every really explained or explored? No. Now that makes sense, given our teen narrator, but this story was kept so focused on Kaelyn’s life that I felt a little constrained by her myopic view. Yes, that was the point of this book, and within its narrow scope it works exceptionally well – this is the story of how disaster completely alters one teen girl’s world – but I found myself chafing at the restrictions. There was so much more going on, both with the virus and the larger world, and I would have liked to see it.
And so this story’s greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. The Way We Fall succeeds where so many dystopians fail, in capturing the personal moments, the fabric of everyday life – and yet, in doing so, it sacrifices scope and peril. This book has a lovely texture, but it just doesn’t cover that much ground. Honestly I finished The Way We Fall with no burning desire to see what happens next, no particular attachment to any of its characters – but this book earned my respect with its storytelling nonetheless. And so here I am, firmly on neutral ground.
Byrt Grade: B+/A-
As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…
The Way We Fall is…really creepy and thought-provoking. There are no zombies, no power-hungry leaders, or anything else you would normally find in many of today’s dystopian reads. This one hits especially close to home because it is so realistic. It reminded me a bit of the SARS and swine-flu outbreaks.
Readers who are looking for a fast paced read will likely lose patience a bit with this story, events progressing slowly but inexorably as the island is quarantined and the population culled body by body, friend by friend, and neighbor by neighbor. That being said, this pace is a perfect way to build tension as we watch symptoms progress in the ill and the ethical and mental status deteriorate in the healthy, though at times we can’t help but want something big to happen to grab us by the heart and yank us kicking and screaming into the story.
Readers will root for the believable characters struggling through heartbreaking situations.