In a departure from her usual verse books, Lisa Schroeder knocks it right out of the park with her prose book Falling For You. Reader friends why have you not forced me to read Lisa Schroeder’s books before, she’s absolutely excellent. I got all of the feels from her latest book and spent the last 35 pages thanking the powers that be that I was not wearing mascara and that I did not have to leave my house to go out into public because I’m pretty sure someone was chopping onions in my vicinity for those last few pages. Anyways after reading and falling head over heels for Falling For You, I am convinced that I need to read the rest of Schroeder’s books — kind of a given in that I LOVE free verse books.
Rae has a really hard time letting down her walls and actually getting into relationships. Usually she pushes guys away before they can get to close. This is because of her home life. You see, her mom married this controlling guy named Dean who is basically awful. He’s not quite physically abusive but he is very manipulative and treats Rae like she is a servant, plus he’s awful to Rae’s mom. And her mom always takes Dean’s side. Anyways there’s a hot new guy at school and he’s into Rae, his name is Nathan and basically his eyes are all blue steel. Anyways, they date and he gets close to Rae, but she starts to feel stifled by him and he won’t give her the space she needs and becomes more and more controlling. OH OH and Rae works at a flower shop and is good friends with homeschooled Leo who works at the coffee shop next door AND Rae writes poetry which plays an important role. PLUS lots of Falling For You alludes to an accident but we slowly find out what the accident consists of in the end. And yeah, that’s the most basic outline I can give you of the plot without getting into spoiler territory.
My heart cracks wide open for Rae. She has such a hard life and it always seemed like things were getting worse and worse. Yet, in Falling For You, she learns perspective. She learns to look for the good and for the sunny side of life, even when the circumstances are utterly awful. I also absolutely loved how Lisa Schroeder gave Rae a back bone. There’s so many books that portray the abused girlfriend as the type people can walk all over, which I suppose makes it easy for others to see why someone is a victim, but that’s not always the case and if you think oh that could never happen to me because I have a backbone, then you do yourself a disservice. I just loved that Rae wasn’t that typical. PLUS! I loved that she turned to poetry and expressing her emotions and also let herself be vulnerable. Rae’s got a great personality and despite her circumstances, I rooted for her. PLUS! It’s nice to read a book about a girl who isn’t economically privileged.
I did think the Nathan thing was a little bit over the top. But, it makes a good point. Like, I just never got the feeling that Nathan and Rae were a good couple and it seemed to move a little fast for me. However, I did like how the friendship with potential for more between Rae and Leo developed. Leo made a good contrast to Nathan and showed okay this is what a healthy, caring relationship looks like. ALSO! ALSO! There’s a point in the very beginning where Rae and Nathan exchange phone numbers and Nathan’s all, now you’re going to delete all the other guys in your phone right? And Rae is creeped out but she’s like oh maybe that’s normal and I couldn’t help but think so many of the teenagers I educate think like this and it’s so important that Schroeder portrayed that as NOT OKAY and unhealthy. Just, I’m glad an author is actually putting that out there instead of glorifying it as romantic.
Since I always go into educator teacher mode when I review books that have unhealthy relationship themes, I thought I would also do that here. I love the way Falling For You portrays an unhealthy relationship in a fairly realistic manner and also I got some interesting commentary out of it. Like, there’s a part where Nathan orders pizza with onions and Rae is all I don’t like onions and Nathan is like just pick them off and she’s like oh, okay. He effectively silences her and it got me thinking to how in society a lot of the time we expect women to not make waves, to sit down and shut up and accept what they’ve been dealt, and I don’t know I guess this book really got me thinking about that. It got me thinking about how he takes away her agency on the first date, and while she gets a bad vibe, she ignores it because that’s what ladies do and because she thinks it’s a one-off thing. It set an interesting sort of precedent. ALSO! I love love love that Schroeder shows that just because there isn’t physical abuse, doesn’t mean the relationship is healthy. An abusive relationship is all about power and control. And we get so many good examples of how Nathan uses control over Rae and tries to take her agency and power away and micromanage every little aspect of her life. Like, I just want to buy lots and lots of copies of Falling For You to pass out to the students I meet when I do my presentations.
In case you can’t tell, I absolutely loved Falling For You by Lisa Schroeder. It made me incredibly emotional. I was attached to the characters. I was invested in the outcome of the story and I loved the various plot lines and themes — from Rae’s family background to certain random acts of kindness to the interactions at Full Bloom. As February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, I think you should pick up Falling For You and get a bit more educated on why teenage dating violence is such a widespread issue. OH OH and before you go stop worrying that this is going to read like an afterschool special, it doesn’t.
Disclosure: Received for review
Other reviews of Falling For You by Lisa Schroeder:
Pure Imagination – “impossible to put the book down”
Clear Eyes, Full Shelves – “a gentle book that in the end left me feeling enveloped by a spirit of goodness.”
Rather Be Reading – “Full of charming imagery with awesome I-want-to-know-you-in-real-life-characters”