Falling Fast by Sophie McKenzie
Plot Summary: (from Waterstone's)
This is life, not a rehearsal...When River auditions for a part in an inter-school performance of Romeo and Juliet, she finds herself smitten by Flynn, the boy playing Romeo. River believes in romantic love, and she can't wait to experience it. But Flynn comes from a damaged family - is he even capable of giving River what she wants? The path of true love never did run smooth...
So I stumbled across this book after typing in "young adult fiction" into my library's online catalogue and looking at the first page of results that came up. This book caught my eye and there was a copy available so I stuck it on hold there and then. Sort of like book roulette!
I'd never read anything by this author before and from the plot summary I was expecting a cheesy teen love story. Whilst some of the elements of the plot are pretty cliche, I was actually taken by surprise by a lot of this book.
River is a hopeless romantic who dreams of playing Juliet in a local boys' school production of the play. She wants to fall in love and be loved in return, whilst her friends are obsessed with sleeping with boys they don't even care that much about. One of my pet peeves in teen fiction is unrealistic or stereotypical portrayals of teenage life but this book felt very real. The characters drink too much and go to parties, sleep with their boyfriends and worry about their body image. River, whilst slightly delusional at times, is totally relatable as a character. I think we've all been the one worrying over every little thing a boy does and what exactly it means!
At the end of the day it is a teen love story and so some parts of this book are going to feel a little twee and predictable, but there was a lot from this book I wasn't expecting. McKenzie explores some pretty tough issues in a sensitive way. Flynn made a really interesting male lead with a lot of depth and you could see why River was so drawn to him. I'm not a huge fan of relationships that involve obsessive girls and unhealthy attitudes towards what's acceptable behaviour for a guy, and at times this book felt like it was crossing that line a tad, but River gained a lot of strength as a character and Flynn really showed development so I ended up enjoying those journeys the characters went on.
This is a really clever little book, with a lot more to it than I was expecting. It's a nice easy read, short book, large font but it doesn't shy away from more controversial issues. I'll definitely look into reading more by this author.
What to read next: Girl, Missing by Sophie McKenzie.
Books like this: Finding Cassie Crazy by Jaclyn Moriarty.