“Friendships are complicated. Friends have power. Friends can break your heart.”
A Step Toward Falling
by Cammie McGovern
Rating: 5/5 Stars
A Step Toward Falling is a contemporary dual perspective novel that chronicles the lives of two high school girls who have both been affected by a bullying incident.
Emily is a high school student who witnesses Belinda, a student with developmental disabilities being assaulted and walks away without acting. Now she and Lucas, another bystander who failed to act, must complete community service at a center that serves people with disabilities. As time passes Emily begins to feel like she is making a difference in the class, but still feels guilty about the night of the attack. When Belinda returns to school Emily makes a plan that she hopes will show Belinda how sorry she is and also give Belinda some positive attention that is long overdue. As new information about the night of the attack comes to light however, Emily begins to second guess how to best help Belinda, and wonders if she is going to end up hurting her more in the end.
Belinda has not returned to school since she was attacked. She has fallen into a routine of watching Pride and Prejudice repeatedly hoping to rediscover the comfort she used to find in watching her favorite movie. She used to believe that there were people like Mr. Darcy in the world but now she isn’t sure. While her grandma and mom are very understanding and don’t mind that she is taking time off from school, Belinda knows she has to go back. As Belinda tries to return to her school routine, she begins to understand that things have changed. She needs to learn to adjust to new roles in her classroom and also finds that she may have some new friends to help her with all of these changes.
Review: This is McGovern’s second novel that I have fallen in love with. She has a wonderful way of making people with disabilities her protagonists without making the conflict of the novel center around their disability. Did Belinda’s disability play into how she recovered or reacted to her attack? Of course, but it wasn’t the only motive driving her actions or determining the next plot point.
I loved the complexity of the feelings and people in this story. This is seen best through the inaction of Emily and Lucas, despite neither of them being “bad kids”. They froze, and despite their parents and peers telling them that it isn’t their fault or there is nothing they could have done, it’s not true. Despite their mistakes at the beginning of the novel however, Emily and Lucas show great maturity in accepting their punishment and doing everything they can to improve the lives of the people they are meant to be serving.
I cannot recommend this book enough! Whether to learn more about people with developmental disabilities, or just to read a YA book with great themes, character growth, and a heartwarming message.