February 5, 2013

Falling for You by Lisa Schroeder

A couple of years ago I stumbled across a new-to-me book by new-to-me author Lisa Schroeder. I cracked open Chasing Brooklyn with  what you might describe as less than high expectations, with the result that I was utterly blindsided by the reality. I am a decided fan of well-executed novels in verse. Have been for awhile now. And this was just such a one--an expertly crafted study of grief and its aftermath, on survivors reaching out to each other. I read it in a single evening and looked forward to more from Ms. Schroeder. Somehow I never made good on that resolution, though. I think it was that I was nervous her others wouldn't live up to the perfect moment that was Chasing Brooklyn. Like maybe I shouldn't go out on any more dates with her books for fear none of them would quite match that heady first date. So I held back. But when the early buzz for Falling for You began to swirl so enticingly around me, it wasn't long before my resolve dissolved in the face of a pretty, pretty cover and the potential for such pretty, pretty words.

Rae needs someone to want her. Someone to care about her and for her to care about in return. It's been years since she's gotten any of that from her mother, let alone whichever man they're currently dependent on for money, food, and shelter. That's why the arrival of Nathan Sharp seems so timely. Nathan is almost immediately into her, and it's difficult for Rae to see past his flattering, affectionate manner. Encouraged by her two best friends who've quietly watched her avoid meaningful relationships in the past, Rae decides to give something with Nathan a shot. And, boy, do sparks fly. The undeniable physical connection between them makes itself both felt, seen, and heard. And before Rae knows it, she has a full-fledged boyfriend, complete with obligatory hand-holding and locker-kissing. Unfortunately, Nathan also appears to come with a monstrously large load of jealousy and neediness. So much, in fact, that she finds herself avoiding him in order to catch her breath. Trouble is, Nathan doesn't really do breathers very well. Any separation at all fills him with despair. And what with her home life being about as bad as it can be, and her need for time and space in which to work and write and avoid her increasingly unstable stepfather, Rae realizes she needs to break things off before she gets in too deep and Nathan's need for her becomes more than she can handle.

I wasn't too fussed when I found out Falling for You was not in verse. I mean, I had kind of hoped it would be, but I was also eager to see how Ms. Schroeder fared in prose. I enjoyed the initial structure and set-up, starting out at the end and then interspersing Rae's account of the past six months with short bursts of the crisis that is to come. I liked Rae fine. She was smack dab in the middle of a nightmare and yet she kept on getting up and going to school and work and fixing an endless string of dinners for her worthless stepfather. But I never really got inside her skin, you know? I understood what made her tick, but it never went beyond skin deep emotion for me. The writing was fine as well. But I quickly found myself missing the wonderful poetic turns of phrase I know Schroeder is capable of. Since Rae is a poet herself, there are excerpts from her poetry journal, but none of them lifted me off the ground. They never felt as genuine or revealing as I was looking for. I also liked the idea of exploring a relationship with one utterly co-dependent partner and one increasingly disaffected one. But Nathan and Rae never surprised me. I could see the turns they were going to take several steps ahead. And minus a deeper emotional investment in Rae, it was hard to stay as present in her predicament as I'd like to have been. And while I liked Leo (it's impossible not to like Leo), I wished I'd gotten more of his perspective. He remained a sort of innocuously good presence in Rae's life, never quite crossing over into vital or vibrant enough to fully inhabit his place in the story. He has a couple of elegant moments that gave me cause for hope. But they (and Rae's journey) were overshadowed by the heavy messages that permeated the novel. Where such themes were delivered subtly and impressed me deeply in Chasing Brooklyn, here they felt too overt, too . . . simple and monochrome and easily swallowed, if you will. I rather suspect I shall sit on this underwhelmed bench alone. And that is just fine. I hope Falling for You finds the readers it's meant to.

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Linkage
Basia's Bookshelf - "I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy it while I was reading it, but when I was done, I was left feeling like I wanted something a little more balanced and real."
Born Bookish - "It was emotional. It was mysterious. It was hopeful. It was wonderful."
Clear Eyes, Full Shelves - " . . . it’s a gentle book that in the end left me feeling enveloped by a spirit of goodness."
Good Books and Good Wine - "My heart cracks wide open for Rae."
Novel Days - "There were scenes that took my breath away."
Pure Imagination - "I can't recommend it enough."

4 comments:

  1. I just finished reading this yesterday. (How timely of me!) I liked the setup and structure as well, though it made the ending a bit predictable. You know what Rae has with Nathan is going to be unhealthy from their first date. Parts of their relationship surprised me - the "Rae" poem, the kiss in the rain (from Rae's POV) and the times his attraction to her seemed more normal. I liked the theme, though it was heavy-handed at times. The horribleness of both her parents got to me. I don't think Dean's actions at the very end were really necessary, nor did Rae need an outpouring of love and support to that degree. Where was the subtlety in the conclusion? ANYWAY, we obviously need to discuss this book in person. :) If you want to try anything else from her backlist, I wasn't very impressed by either I Heart you, You Haunt me or Far From You but I think The Day Before is very sweet.

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    1. The predictability got to me, yeah. And I liked that Nathan wasn't all black, devil-stalker-dude. But it never went anywhere worthwhile, you know? And the outpouring of love was utterly ridiculous, out of keeping with the story entirely. Yeah, we should discuss it. I'll keep THE DAY BEFORE in mind.

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  2. I've been a little wary of reading this one, probably mainly because I love Schroeder's verse novels so much. But as the library conveniently has a copy, I'll probably get around to reading it eventually. As for Schroeder's other books, I loved The Day Before. It maybe doesn't deal with quite as many issues as Chasing Brooklyn, but I fell *hard* for it, and the romance gave me butterflies and everything :)

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    1. Well, I can't say as I recommend it. But borrowing it from the library probably wouldn't be TOO much of a waste of your time. I'm glad to hear you, too, liked THE DAY BEFORE. I'll get around to it at some point.

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