Middle school students have reading interests that run the gamut from Diary of a Wimpy Kid to Twilight. Sometimes as a parent it is hard to know what is age appropriate for your child. Through this blog, I will try to help parents make informed decisions about what is available in our library. I am hoping that this blog will be a resource for our parents, and that we can all work together to make our students life-long readers!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Fall

The Fall
by James Preller
From the publisher:
"Through his journal a boy deals with the death of a classmate, who committed suicide as a result of bullying.

The summer before school starts, Sam's friend and classmate Morgan Mallen kills herself. Morgan had been bullied. Maybe she kissed the wrong boy. Or said the wrong thing. What about that selfie that made the rounds? Morgan was this, and Morgan was that. But who really knows what happened?

As Sam explores the events leading up to the tragedy, he must face a difficult and life-changing question: Why did he keep his friendship with Morgan a secret? And could he have done something—anything—to prevent her final actions?

As he did in Bystander, James Preller takes an issue that faces every student and school in the country, and makes it personal, accessible, and real.

I am very careful about books I put in our school library that are about suicide. I don’t want to have any books that glorify it, which I feel some of the YA books do these days. I bought this one because of the many reviews that I read that said it was appropriate for middle school. It is a very quick, easy read and is a good book for reluctant readers. It has very short chapters and keeps your interest (for the most part). The author did a good job of helping the reader to feel the guilt and pain that the main character, Sam, was feeling. I liked that it was obvious that Morgan’s decision (the girl who committed suicide) wasn’t just about one person or one event. There were many things, along with her own poor choices, that factored into her depression and ultimate decision about suicide. Those puzzle pieces are placed together as the book progresses, because at the beginning you feel like you know exactly who and what is to blame. Aren’t those the kind of judgments we always make when someone commits suicide? We want to have a nice little package that tells us exactly what led to it and who or what is to blame. But we can never accurately judge because that person is now gone and can’t tell us what they were thinking or feeling. But as this book evolves, we are led to see there were many other influences at work. Towards the end of the book, there is a very telling conversation:

“I never loved anyone, she said. Ever. Please make that your gift to me.
Love someone. Live long and love someone with all your heart, she told me.”

One thing that was kind of distracting was that I believe this was set in middle school – at least the voices felt very young to me – but the timeline of events didn’t seem to work for middle school. If it was middle school, the characters had to have been in 7th grade because Morgan’s older sister was still at the school, and Mr. Laneway, the counselor, mentions that he liked Sam’s essay from last year. That means that the event that set off the mean girl would have had to happen in 5th or 6th grade, and I just didn’t buy that, so that was a little distracting. 

All in all, I think this is a sensitive and thoughtful look at teenage suicide. It demonstrated the lasting effects that one person can have, whether he or she even knows it. Hopefully any middle schoolers who read this will realize what an impact they can have when they choose to be kind, even if it is just to say a weak, “hi”. 

Areas of concern:
*Teenage suicide.
*Serious cyberbullying goes on.
*Talk of “hooking up” at a very young age.
*Several uses of the “s” word and a couple of the “a” word.

Suggested Ages:
Publisher's Weekly - Ages 9-14
School Library Journal - Grades 6-9

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