Tuesday, February 14, 2012

DNF: The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe

Did Not Finish Explanation

Received: ARC from publisher, via NetGalley
Read pages: 210 of 309

I debated trying to stick it out until the end, but I can't bring myself to do that. It's not that The Way We Fall is a BAD book, because it's not. It's just not a good match with me.

I'm extremely picky about post-apocalyptic books (this isn't exactly post-apoc, but it's close enough). I want them to be realistic, horrifying, or exciting (or all three) with an intelligent MC. I want to really feel terrified and horrified by events (if you've read Cormac McCarthy's The Road, think the basement scene. Yikes!).

To me, The Way We Fall fell short on every marker.

Kaelyn wasn't painfully stupid, but she did make a number of questionable choices that added needless risk. If she had been plunked into a more realistic post-apoc story, then she totally would have been killed. She also struck me as much younger than she was supposed to be. I think she was supposed to be 16, but her actions, mindset, and narrative voice felt more like MG than YA.

The Way We Fall is also a VERY sanitized version of a post-apoc book. Think of it more like post-apoc lite, or post-apoc for the MG set. There is danger, and people do die, but the deaths seemed inserted more for trite shock value than realism, the disease never felt scary, and the societal collapse lacked gritty realism. It all felt like a paint-by-numbers version of a post-apoc book: all the points were hit, but everything lacked the emotion or life I want to see in a book.

The characters also felt one-dimensional. While the book is narrated in the first person using a diary entry/letter writing format, I had very little handle on the MC's personality beyond a few surface traits. Her voice was so generic that if I hadn't been told, I would have had a difficult time even guessing the sex of the MC.

The other characters are even thinner, primarily defined by simplistic labels. The boys Kaelyn meets later on were gratingly one-dimensional. The "good" guy is a paragon of virtue, while the "badness" of the other boys is stressed to the point where it felt patronizing.

My biggest complaint is probably my complete lack of emotional response to anything. People are dying! Lots of people! Kaelyn loses people she is very close to, and yet...I felt nothing. I couldn't care less. I wasn't scared. I wasn't at the edge of my seat. I wasn't anything.

The story plods along with nothing much happening and Kaelyn's dispassionate letters did nothing to engage me. It's less that the pace is slow, and more that Kaelyn is just distanced from everything. The plot is also riddled with irrelevant asides that I imagine are supposed to add depth but did little except muddy the narrative (a gay son whose sexuality is a Big Deal in one chapter in the beginning but has no relevance outside of that initial introduction. A similar conflict-that-isn't about the MC's mixed race. An aunt who left her family and the emotional damage that...never manifested in any relevant way, and so on).

The shorter page count, tiny chapters (2-7 pages on average), and simplistic voice make The Way We Fall a very easy read. The sexless quality to the narrative may help The Way We Fall appeal to boys as well as girls, making this a decent pick for the classroom. The "lite" aspects may also make this appealing to middle school classrooms, where discussion can be had over the situation without worrying about traumatizing younger readers. But, keep in mind, I didn't read the last 100 pages, so while what I did read seems more MG, I can't speak for the entire book.

This is a Disney book and the recommended age range is 12 and up, which seems about right. Unfortunately for me, I am too old and too picky for this book.

Have you read The Way We Fall?
I hope you liked it more than I did!

(hmm...I just realized now that I am scheduling this to appear on Valentine's Day. I should probably mention that this post is in no way a reflection of my feelings on Valentine's Day. I associate Valentine's Day with happy things like loads of chocolate--not death, plague, and destruction! Although, I think a little chocolate might be just the thing to brighten up a post-apocalyptic situation, don't you?)

What do you look for in a dystopian/post-apocalyptic book?


  1. yeah, this doesn't sound like its for me at all. I completely agree! A post-apoc should be terrifying! That time between the society collapsing and rebuilding itself is a scary time with a lot of uncertainty and I should be on the edge of my seat because of it! When its post-apoc, I don't enjoy lite. I like them to terrify me with realism.

    However, since dystopians are after society has been rebuilt, they don't have to terrify me as much. They just have to be strict and different from our society now. I think I'm a bit more lax when it comes to dystopian.

    I'm sorry you didn't like this though! But I always love your reasons for not finishing a book. Have fun on your vacation! Now I really want chocolate :P

    Mackenzie @ Oh, For the Love of Books!

  2. Oh boy. It's a shame that this one wasn't a better fit for you, but I like the idea of a post-apoc-ish novel that I could hand to younger readers. Thanks for the tip!

  3. *giggles* I had to laugh at your Valentine's Day Reference. I am sorry you didn't like it and didn't even finish it. Honestly, I started 3 books myself lately and stopped reading. I don't have time to waste here...

    About this book: I am a little bored with Dystopians right now.. I just had the feeling I had too many last year. It was THE raising star genre last year. For me, I don't need Dystopian - war and destruction right now which is why I will only pick one up that really sounds epic. Or anxiously awaited sequels. :)

  4. I actually enjoyed this one. I had watched the movie Contagion the weekend before I read this, and that movie had zero action in it whatsoever, so I think that may have colored my perception a bit. It meant that this virus story moved faster than that movie did, so I enjoyed it more.

  5. OOOHHH What a bummer!! :( I'm going to try it out...just to test it...but one dimensional characters bug the snot out of me. So we'll see what I think. Great review, your feelings are very well portrayed. :)
    Happy Valentine's Day with LOTS AND LOTS of Chocolate and flowers!

  6. Ah geez, that sucks. You got all the way to 210 and couldn't finish it?! That's happened to me plenty of times as well. When i read dystopia, i want it to be chillingly realistic. Like an episode of the Twilight Zone where you could actually imagine this happening in real life!

    La Toya (La Toya, Literally.)

  7. You know I don't do the whole post-apocalyptic thing but I think I would hate PA-Lite even more.
    I don't think this is a good match for me either.


  8. Sorry to hear this one wasn't for you! I've heard only good things about this book so it's nice to get the opinion of the opposite side. I'm really interested in this one because it does seem like the type of book I'd like (then again you never know!). Great review!

  9. Yeah, definitely avoiding this one. I'm extremely picky when it comes to dystopians/post-apocalyptic stories too. For the most part they seem to be very formulaic. If you've read one, you've read them all.

    I think she was supposed to be 16, but her actions, mindset, and narrative voice felt more like MG than YA.
    I had this problem with Thirteenth Child. The main character, Eff, is supposed to be 18. Had that not been mentioned in the book I would have guessed her age to be around 13 - if that.

  10. I'm so sorry you didn't like it! I liked it although I agree, she did make a few poor choices. I read it a while ago and I'm thinking she was 15?
    I did like how she developed relationships with kids that she normally wouldn't have because the crisis brought them together and the way that a certain group of kids took care of those on the island (don't want to give away spoilers if anyone decides to read it).

    Sometimes a book is either up your alley or not :o] I must admit that biological warfare/mistakes scare me. It terrified me when the government lost over 5 sample vials of the deadly Ebola virus along with some Anthrax samples. You know that someone sold it to the highest bidder and it's in our enemies hands right now. The government couldn't shut that news down quick enough.

    There's a grain of truth in some of these stories-the chaos that follows, the lack of food, the violence and I believe, the government would do horrific things...

    I certainly don't think it would be anything like what we read in fiction...I think it would be much, much worse.

    Anyways, LOL, that's my .99 cents worth!

  11. Lol! I totally cracked up when I read your Valentine's day comment. Hilarious!

    I think I'm going to pass on this one. From what I've been hearing, it doesn't sound like one I would really care for.

  12. I couldn't finish this one either....

  13. I didn't read this one. The premise didn't appeal to me and honestly, I haven't got the love of dystopians everyone else does. So They have to be really big ones for me to read them. But it is like some people said, sometimes it fits, sometimes it doesn't. But I can see a Disney book being geared more towards the MG crowd.


  14. I'm completely with you on wanting my post-apocs to be horrifying... which is a strange thing to want - to want certain scenes to leave scarring impressions like the basement scene in The Road that forever haunt you whenever you think back on them - but it's true.

  15. Well, I loved your DNF explanation. I could tell right away when you mentioned "letter" and "diary" prose, I knew this was not for me. Thanks!

  16. Well...I actually liked this one. It's not going on my Favorites list any time soon, but as soon as I finished listening to book one, I got my hands on book two. I don't know if I would have hung in there for the print version, but it was a good, understated listen. It kind of reminded me of Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer, which is also told in diary form. I can see what you mean about the characters, but I guess it didn't bother me too much.


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