Book: While I’m Falling
Author: Laura Moriarty
Genre: Fiction/Family/Mother|Daughter Relationships/Reflection/Divorce/Struggle
Summary (from flap of Hyperion edition): In While I’m Falling, Laura Moriarty presents a compelling depiction of how one young woman’s life changes when her family breaks up for good. Ever since her parents announced that they’re getting divorced, Veronica has been falling. Hard. A junior in college, she has fallen in love. She has fallen behind in her difficult coursework. She hates her job as a counselor at the dorm, and she longs for the home that no longer exists. When an attempt to escape the pressure, combined with bad luck, lands her in a terrifiying situation, a shaken Veronica calls her mother for help-only to find her former foundation too preoccupied to offer any assistance at all. But Veronica only gets to feel hurt for so long. Her mother shows up at the dorm with a surprising request-and with the elderly family dog in tow. Boyfriend complications ensue, along with her father’s sudden interest in dating. Veronica soon finds herself with a new set of problems, and new questions about love and independence. Darkly humorous, beautifully written, and filled with crystalline observations about how families fall apart, While I’m Falling takes a deep look at the relationship between a daughter and a mother when one is trying to grow up and the other is trying to stay afloat.-Hyperion, 2009.
It's funny that both this book and Whiter Than Snow were ones that I wasn't initially itching to read when I first picked them up. However, while I enjoyed the latter, I didn't enjoy the former. I'm always curious when a book mentions love troubles (for some grim, somewhat grotesque reason I can't find the source of) so I think that's what convinced me to buy the book anyway, despite my lack of any true interest. I've given this book a shot and I'm sorry to say that I did.
While I'm Falling is a book that has a greatly exaggerated summary. It sums up the problems addressed in the book nicely, but gives more weight to them than is really necessary. Is this a ploy of the publisher to get people to buy the book? Probably. I think human beings are always drawn to a form of destruction in a morbid, curious sort of way, so picking up a book like this isn't too out of the way for most people.
Anyway, this review will be as spoiler free as possible.
I have to admit, this book was not as bad as my experience with Dare to Die, but it came pretty darn close. If I had to put a cliched saying to it, I'd say that reading this book was like watching a train wreck in slow motion. You're stunned and horrified, but you can't look away. I didn't have a hard time reading it. The prose was well-written and very simplistic. There wasn't any kind of over-complicated writing or impossible to understand situations. Everything was spelled out for you and there wasn't any kind of symbolism or figurative speech.
My problems were with the main character and the conflicts that arise in the story.
Veronica, dear Veronica. Our heroine tells us the story herself instead of it being told in the third person. The only exception to this is when the story switches to the third person point of view of her mother. I'll address that problem later. Veronica is the youngest daughter in the separating family and is the one whose life is supposedly falling apart. The problem is that I just can't sympathize with her. I feel sorry for her over the whole divorce issue. It's a very serious, solemn and saddening subject to tackle. I think Moriarty did a good job with that aspect of the story. But as far as her own personal problems? I just felt no sympathy. Everything bad that happens to her is of her own doing, save for one bad act of nature. Her choices make no sense to me at all. Her attitude towards her life is one of complaint, apathy, and pure laziness. She's almost masochistic with her attitude towards her school work. She doesn't appear to have any genuine love for her parents.
Let's go over her problems briefly.
Her boyfriend: Veronica's boyfriend is supposedly the only good thing in her life. As far as I can tell, they do seem to care about each other deeply. But Veronica screws up the relationship. How? You'll have to read the story. I personally think it's a minuscule and very avoidable mistake, but everyone has their different definitions on this subject.
Her grades: Veronica is pre-med. She isn't pre-med because she wants to be. She's pre-med because she wants to be successful like her sister. She's pre-med because she wants her family to approve of her. While I can understand that many people do this, Veronica's voice doesn't convince me of the desperation she feels or the desire she has to achieve the goal no matter what. It's obvious she's going to fail. It's obvious she's going to do what she truly loves. The whole conflict revolves around her organic chemistry grade. Now, while I'm no stranger to organic chemistry (that material is pure hell), it seems to me that picking organic chemistry as the subject she struggles with the most is the most obvious one to pick. It'd be more interesting if she actually did horrible on a subject she did well in. Most of the time, she's just worrying and whining and complaining about her grades and her school work. After a while, it gets pretty annoying.
Her job as an RA: Veronica is probably the worst RA ever. Her reasons for becoming one, while not unusual, are completely one dimensional and not very deep at all. I'm amazed she even got the job in the first place. At my school, the RA selection process is very difficult and is scrutinized from every angle. There's no way someone like Veronica would become an RA through my school's application process. But then again, that's my school and not her fictional one. She keeps saying her school work is the excuse for not being able to do RA things. For me, that's complete bull. One of my guy friends is a bio/chem major and he's been a fantastic RA. It's just her own character traits that prevent her from being a good RA.
Overall, Veronica just seems like a whiny girl with no real depth or dimension. She's certainly sympathetic when it comes to her own family members. She also does have a sense of maturity in certain situations when she's analyzing her own family (which is a lot). But the mistakes she makes are completely avoidable and extremely stupid. I was more angry at her than sympathetic.
Now, as far as the plot goes, I don't think Moriarty put it together well at all. She jumps all over the place when it comes to introducing setting, characters, and plot. She makes Veronica go from talking about her grades to certain childhood memories of her family that have nothing to do with the situation at all. Sometimes they do make sense, but for the most part, they have nothing to do with what the scene had been describing. She also juggled too many story lines at once. I could barely keep up with the scene changes and what Veronica was focusing on as each chapter went by. One minute she's talking about her boyfriend, the next, she's talking about her overprotective, judgmental father. It's very annoying.
The biggest problem was that, once you got in enough, the story was predictable. Nothing was surprising or sneaky. You could see everything coming and nothing really took you aback. Again, slow motion train wreck. It was also extremely negative. The story just got sadder and sadder and sadder. I had stop at some points and take a break from the story because it was just so unhappy. Could we seriously slap a few smiley faces in there? My god, so depressing. Half of the problems could've been avoided if Veronica just used her common sense. The ending wasn't too bad, but, like the rest of the book, it was extremely unsatisfying. No one really likes a predictable story so that was disappointing.
My one serious problem with the book in terms of decision making for Veronica was her attitude after the "attempt to escape the pressure gone horribly wrong" thing happens. To avoid too many spoilers, after the thing happens to her, which is scary enough in its own right, she decides that the best way to deal with it is to throw a party. That's so out of character that it's extremely unbelievable. You can't spend time making a character that's antisocial and then make him/her do something that's extraordinarily sociable. You can't do that and expect the reader to believe it. I know that some people go through major changes after a situation like what Veronica goes through, but a party?! A party?! No. No. No. I do not accept that. I do not accept it at all. If I went through what Veronica went through, the last thing I'd be doing is throwing a party.
As far as the switching of narration to Veronica's mother part I mentioned earlier, it's not exactly horrible, but I don't really understand the point of it either. The chapters are used to explain Veronica's mother's side of the story, which, to me, is not really worth explaining. Are we supposed to sympathize with the mother? The mother's name is Natalie, but it's mentioned so rarely in Veronica's narrative that when I first read the first "mother" chapter, I had no idea who this woman was or what the point of the chapter was. I figured it out eventually, but still, Moriarty couldn't make some kind of transition notice that would make it easier for the reader to understand? I do understand what Moriarty was trying to do, but I just didn't see the point in using that narrative device.
Overall, the book is okay. It's not fantastic, but it's not too terrible either. The summary says it's "darkly humorous". I found no humor, just darkness. Nothing was funny to me in this book and normally, I find even the dumbest of things funny.
With it predictability, unsympathetic narrators, and jumpy, garbled plot, I give While I'm Falling a B-.
Please support the author by buying this book or borrowing it from a friend or local library.
I've technically finished my goal of "Winter Reading", but I'll still be reading for the rest of the break. I hope I can squeeze in one more review before the end of my break.
Thanks for reading!