FALLING UNDER BY GWEN HAYES
- Reading level: Young Adult
- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: NAL Trade (March 1, 2011)
Theia Alderson has always led a sheltered life in the small California town of Serendipity Falls. But when a devastatingly handsome boy appears in the halls of her school, Theia knows she's seen Haden before- not around town, but in her dreams.
As the Haden of both the night and the day beckons her closer one moment and pushes her away the next, the only thing Theia knows for sure is that the incredible pull she feels towards him is stronger than her fear.
And when she discovers what Haden truly is, Theia's not sure if she wants to resist him, even if the cost is her soul.
What I enjoyed:
I loved the dark, creepy world of Under and the trippy sequences when Theia crossed over into Hayden’s world. Some readers have mentioned how dark this book was, but for me that was a selling point- I actually would’ve liked to spend more time in the macabre, twisted world of Under. I was both repulsed and fascinated by it—the architecture, landscape, inhabitants, you name it. I wanted more, more, more! Also, for a paranormal romance, Gwen Hayes definitely shocked me with a few surprises— I thought I had Hayden pegged right from the start and turned out there were twists and turns I never saw coming. In addition, the secondary characters such as Theia’s best friends Donny and Ame were so hilarious and well-constructed, I felt like they took on more personality than the main characters themselves (which is a good and bad thing). I loved Donny’s brazen hard outer shell that masked the softer girl inside just wanting to find the right guy who would treat her right. And Ame was very interesting with her psychic tendencies and quiet “suffer in silence” obsession with Mike, the clueless boy from school. Together Theia's best friends were a great contrast with one another and with Theia herself—three girls who couldn’t have been more different but linked together through friendship.
What didn't work for me:
The pacing of FALLING UNDER seemed at odds with itself—the plot sort of stumbled along too slowly for me in the beginning and then sped up too fast toward the end. But here's my main issue with the book—once again we have another YA storyline where the main protagonist falls in love with the supernatural boy way-y-y-y too quickly. I know that teen girls tend to crush hard (I was a teen once too), but at the same time it gets under my skin to not end—to the point where I am wondering, do I even want to read YA paranormal romance anymore? Now, while in theory I can appreciate the romantic notion of sacrificing one's life for love, I felt mostly horrified at how willing Theia was to just throw her life away (literally and figuratively) for a guy she just met and knew so little about, beyond the fact that he was extremely good looking. I feel like this is a trend being glorified in Young Adult, and it bothers me. I wanted more from Theia- she was a smart, well-disciplined young woman. To see her so eager to be consumed by Hayden and lose her identity in becoming his love interest, did not sit well with me.
Gwen Hayes did such a good job in painting a portrait of a young woman stifled by her overbearing father, that it was oftentimes hard to relate to Theia. I think that's why I felt more connected to her best friends—those two girls had more of the mannerisms and speech that I could personally relate to. Theia came off as either very stiff to me, or conversely, very swoony and it was hard for me to catch up with her.
It's a tricky thing when you are a reviewer – I try to take on books that I think will be a runaway hit for me, but when they end up falling short of the mark, there's nothing more painful and stress-inducing than knowing I have to put my negative thoughts down on paper. I can't help but wonder—is the problem just with me? Are my reading tastes evolving out of YA? Do I need to switch to adult? I don't know the answers to these questions yet, but I do want to point something out-- despite my own trepidation, I know that FALLING UNDER will appeal to a certain type of reader and many people will connect and appreciate the story. There is definitely a solid audience out there for this type of book—sadly- I think I'm just not one of them anymore. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't try it if you are interested in the premise.
Bottom Line: FALLING UNDER does have a lot going for it—the murky world of Under was fascinating and the book does have a lot of series potential. I may not be picking up the sequel, but I will support Gwen's writing by checking out her future works.
Gwen Hayes lives in the Pacific Northwest with her real life hero, their children, and the pets that own them. She writes books for teen readers about love, angst, and saving the world. Her debut novel, FALLING UNDER, will be released in March of 2011 by NAL. Baffled by the fact that not everyone has people talking to each other in their head all the time, Gwen decided maybe she should start writing down what they say. She told her family she wanted to be a writer in 2007, they all nodded, and the adventures began. Official Website