After an injury ends Savannah’s dream of a college gymnastics scholarship, she quits despite her parents’ protests. She won’t risk breaking her body—and heart—again.
LESSON TWO: Catch your best friend when she falls—or regret it forever.
Rules are meant to be broken, according to Savannah’s best friend, Cassie—and it’s more fun to break them together. But when Cassie attempts suicide, Savannah’s left wondering how well she really knows her.
LESSON THREE: Leaping forward, not knowing where you’ll land, is the hardest of all.
Falling for Marcos wasn’t part of the plan. Not only did he save Cassie’s life, he also believes Savannah can still achieve her dreams. Except Cassie thinks Marcos and gymnastics will only break Savannah’s heart.
As Savannah tumbles and twists through toxic friendships and crushing parental expectations, she realizes you never know who will be there when you fall.
Though Diana Gallagher be but little, she is fierce. She’s also a gymnastics coach, writing professor, and country music aficionado. She holds an MFA from Stony Brook University and writes about flipping-related activity for The Couch Gymnast. Her work has also appeared in The Southampton Review and on a candy cigarette box for SmokeLong Quarterly. She’s represented by Tina Wexler of ICM Partners.
(I received an advance copy of this book for free. Thanks to Spencer Hill Press and NetGalley.)
This was a contemporary story about a gymnast and her strained relationship with her best friend.
I felt quite sorry for Savannah in this because of the way her best friend Cassie treated her. Savannah looked to Cassie as her best friend, whilst Cassie seemed to always be putting her down and focusing her attention on her other friend instead.
The storyline in this was about Savannah going back to gymnastics after a knee injury, wondering about which college she would go to and whether she could get a scholarship, and worrying about Cassie, especially after Cassie’s attempted suicide. I did find the story quite dull though, even with the attempted suicide, and I didn’t like the relationship between Savannah and Cassie all that much, as Cassie came across as quite self-centred and unsupportive of Savannah.
The ending to this was okay, and I was pleased that Savannah had got her future at college worked out.
This is the first book that I received from Netgalley- so thank you to them.
I have all the mixed feelings about this book. It took me about three times as long to read it as it should have and there were definitely parts that I did not like. Where to start?
Savannah is probably the blandest character in the whole book. Which isn’t good as she is the main character. Aside from gymnastics (which she has given up), being a decent student and being unable to drive I know absolutely nothing about what she does and does not like. Who she is, what she stands for. I don’t know. She is sort of a blank but also has angst. I get that giving up gymnastics was difficult for her but I don’t understand how that relates to having no personality.
I quite liked Marcos (the love interest). Actually, I think that I liked Marcos more than Savannah liked Marcos. I mean, aside from his hair smelling like coconut, she really doesn’t seem to pay much attention to him. She doesn’t really try to get to know him. I can’t speak to the representation in this book but I found him to be a very positive character. (But I know nothing so feel free to contradict.)
Cassie, Cassie, Cassie. I didn’t like her. I didn’t like her even the slightest and I am one of those weird overly empathetic people who feels bad about the killer in slasher movies (I mean, more for their victims but the killers make me sad). The friendship between Savannah and Cassie is so toxic. She deliberately isolates Savannah from other friends, emotionally manipulates her, and puts her future in jeopardy. I know that she has a ton of trouble of her own but I couldn’t figure out why I should care. Nothing meaningful ever came to light about what drives her or how she really feels. (I am starting to see a pattern here)
The thing that really bothered me about this book was the fact that the racism both obvious and subtle was never explicitly addressed. And there is a ton of it. There is graffiti sprayed on lockers, Latinx characters are constantly harassed and often physically assaulted. And nothing is ever done about it. Savannah never really has a problem with it except when it directly affects her. Everything becomes about Savannah even when it shouldn’t be. Marcos is getting harassed and into a fight? Somehow all about Savannah. There is so much othering in this book. I was also disappointed in Savannah because she was focused on really weird parts of the conflict. “Oh, nos! My boyfriend keeps getting in fights with racists and my best friend tells me I can’t handle that!” focusing on herself rather than the fact that her boyfriend is daily dealing with racial harassment. I know that she was portrayed to be doing the right thing but her reactions, actions, and inactions really bothered me.
That being said this book was more disappointing than terrible. I know that I sound as if I am tearing it apart and that I hated it. I didn’t but the underlying issues took me out of the story pretty often. So, what did I like? Frankly, I liked the gymnastics. I was one of those flipping little girls for years and years and Gallagher shows familiarity and affection for the sport. The times when Savannah is at the gym or competing are by far the best passages in the book. She has the feel down cold. However much the rest of the novel struck me as “off” the gymnastics portions were spot on.
This book did have me YouTubing (I am making this a verb, okay?) the 1992 Olympic All-Around competition because I kept thinking about Tatiana Gutsu as I read. That standing full twisting back tuck on the beam still impresses me.
I also enjoyed watching her relationship with her father develop. She starts off with such a negative attitude towards him and it is wonderful to see her start to understand and accept that he has and will always be there for her. I am a fan of strong father-daughter relationships in novels.
There is some interesting symbolism with Savannah’s name. Cassie changes it from Caitlyn to Savannah (her middle name) when they are small. Cassie literally changes Savannah’s identity to fit what she wants from her. At the end of the book, Savannah is talking with a recruiter from a college and corrects him by telling him her name is Caitlyn. This is Savannah reclaiming her identity.
In the end: Come for the gymnastics but you might not be interested in staying for much more.
A great YA novel. I've found when they're good, like this one is, I really enjoy reading them as a nice palate cleanser between my usual darker mysteries. It was easy to get into and hard to put down.
Savannah is determined that her most recent gymnastics injury is her last. The pain and physical therapy have made her throw in the towel. To the disappointment of her parents, she wants to be done with gymnastics. Her best friend Cassie encourages this, content to have fun and plan their future without the sport. No more painful injuries, braces, or sore muscles. ...No more adrenaline rush, pride, competing in college, or goals. New plans, new future... with Cassie.
Until Cassie tries to kill herself. She survives, but is closed off and doesn't want to talk about it. She seems to want to pretend it didn't happen, which Savannah isn't satisfied with. She also wants Savannah to stay away from Marco, the sweet classmate she's been getting closer to. Though Cassie is allowed to have other friends, she seems to get jealous when Savannah does. Is she against Marco for real reasons, or simply because she wants Savannah to herself? Savannah has always been content to let Cassie be the leader, but she's starting to think she's been holding her back from figuring out what she really wants.
Cute and inspirational story. I received an ARC of this book from Net Galley and Spencer Hill Press, thank you! My review is honest and unbiased.
More than any other sport, watching and learning about gymnastics has always fascinated me. When my five year old self tried gymnastics, I was not a fan, but it is always so cool to watch others flip and tumble like there's no tomorrow. This is exactly what got me to request Lessons in Falling from Netgalley- I haven't read too much about gymnasts, and I thought this book would be such a fun way to learn!
I did end up liking this book, but not enough to give it full stars or anything. There were many, many things I enjoyed about it, but I think it's fair to say that it also had a few flaws.
To briefly synopsize, this story revolves around gymnast Savannah, who badly injures her knee and is forced to take a break from gymnastics. Instead of only taking a break, Savannah decides to quit, wanting to make more time for school and her best friend Cassie. But when Cassie attempts suicide and refuses to talk Savannah about it, she has to take matters into her own hands, and does this by talking to Marcos, who was there at the scene. She then makes up her mind and realizes that she wants to go back to gymnastics- but then there is Cassie, who disagrees. Will Savannah have what it takes to make her own decision?
The one major flaw that bothered me about this book was the characters. Typically, when I cannot relate to a protagonist or if I have problems with the characters overall, it turns the whole book off for me. In this case, protagonist Savannah was mostly the issue- I found that she was pretty whiny and self-centred, and she didn't really take the initiative to make things 100% right again between her and Cassie. The rest of the characters were just dull and unmemorable, and I'm pretty sure I lost my memory of them the second I finished the book.
I did appreciate Savannah's character development, though, but that does not make up for the person she was throughout the book. I mostly liked how she learned to take chances and try new things rather than just hanging back and avoiding all danger.
Despite the fact that I didn't love the characters, I did find the concept of this book to be pretty appealing. As I said before, gymnastics really interests me, and I was so glad to *finally* be able to pick up a book about it! The writing style was engaging and upbeat, too, which was a definite plus.
Overall, Lessons in Falling was just a mediocre book. If it wasn't for the unlikeable characters, it would be getting a much higher rating for sure, but unfortunately, that did not happen, so 3.5 stars it is. If you don't mind a whiny protagonist and are interested in a story about gymnastics without much romance, then you should definitely check this one out!☺️
*I received a digital ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.*
When I dislike a book for so many reasons as much as LESSONS IN FALLING, writing a review without piling on is difficult, so I'm going to do bullet points.
*Shows how unhealthy, unsupportive friendships can be limiting *Some of characters are interesting and complex *Savannah grows throughout the book
*Hello racial stereotypes- all the Latinos lived in a bad neighborhood, were angry and prone to fighting etc *Overt and covert racism often unaddressed *Excess, pointless dialogue didn't add to plot or characters
The racial aspect was so frustrating, partially because I was angry that the writer and publisher didn't at least include a variety of experiences and backgrounds for all subtypes of characters.
I wouldn't recommend the book to anyone, in fact, I would recommend not reading LESSONS IN FALLING.
*Review copy received from publisher* Full review: http://crushingcinders.com/lessons-in... Lessons in Falling is about friendships, how they evolve and the dangers of losing yourself to a stronger character. It has a vital message regarding finding yourself and the negative effects of xenophobia, more relevant today than ever before.
I love books based almost entirely on characterisations and was really looking forward to this promising story. While I did enjoy it, I didn’t get the feel of the characters and as a result, the story fell flat. The friendship between Savannah and Cassie was complicated, but despite the strength of her character, I didn’t get a sense of her and this meant her character’s impact was diluted.
The storyline was predictable and without strong characterisation Lessons in Falling didn’t get quite off the ground. Rather hovering around the ‘it’s okay’ line. The exception (yes there is one character her who really stood out) was Marcos. While I loved the slow, slow burning romance, it was his easy friendships, protectiveness and his reactions to the racial encounters that kept me turning the pages. His spark grew during the story and I would love to hear his POV.
Beautiful and raw. The flawed characters were like snapshots of my life. I smiled almost throughout the whole book - sometimes from humor, other times from the ribbing the writing serves to anyone who's experienced adolescence, rocky friendships, and life changes. As much as I hated the character's decisions at times, I could always understand why they were made. That relatability draws you into this page-turner and leaves you wanting more. We're ready for another, Ms. Gallagher!
Lessons in Falling is a coming of age tale of that kind of gets you right in the heart.
Savannah is a gymnast but after an injury, she’s really questioning if she wants to continue on. She’s been doing it her whole life so in all honesty its a part of her. I loved that she was a gymnast. You don’t see very many stories with that background. Throughout this book, there are a ton of ups and downs. From her friend Cassie to the new boy in her life Marcos.
This is Diana Gallagher’s debut into the book world. I think she did a fantastic job with the story. I enjoyed it and I think this is a YA that anyone could really fall into. The only thing for me is that I didn’t get that emotional connection with the characters. And that is a huge thing for me.
Personal Response: Lessons In Falling was a true heart stopping story. Once I got into it, I couldn't put it down. The main characters story is entirely relatable to any athlete. The friendship instability and having a boyfriend is also very understandable. There were many times in that I nearly cried or threw the book across the floor. This book is not for the cold hearted.
Plot Summary: Savannah is, no, was a gymnast, but an awful ACL tear convinces her she needs out. Cassie, her best friend, seems to agree that is the end of the line. Throughout their senior, Cassie seems to pull away just as Savannah is starting to date a boy named Marcos. In an unexpected turn, Cassie takes a dive into cold waves in an attempt to take her own life. This event causes Savannah to rethink her life and she once again goes out for gymnastics. Cassie is trying to convince her that Marcos and gymnastics are bad for Savannah while Marcos warns that Cassie is making all of Savannah's decisions for her. Which one is right?
Characterization: Savannah: In the beginning of the story, Savannah is a follower and a little scared of her own shadow. Forever following Cassie's footsteps. By the end of the book, Savannah is now making her own decisions and risks and has a faithful encourager in a boyfriend.
Cassie: Cassie is a big control freak. Everything Savannah does, Cassie needs to control, but as Savannah gets stronger, she gets weaker. By the end of the story, Cassie finally understands that she is not the controller of the universe and can't make Savannah follow her decisions.
Marcos: Marcos is the reckless vigilante. You hurt his friend, he hurts you. This "vigilante" act ends up with him in a hospital and Savannah nearly getting hurt in vengeance for him. He learns to control his impulses and be a better boyfriend by the end of the story.
Recommendation: I would recommend Lessons In Falling for anyone. There is no age limit. This book is for those who need a new look on how their life is so they can turn it around just like Savannah. Which means...READ THIS BOOK!
Book title: Lessons In Falling Personal Response: I really liked Lessons In Falling. There is a lot of action and there is also romance. The author uses appropriate vocabulary for a reader of my age. She also describes the events very well.
Plot Lessons In Falling is about a gymnast that blows out her knee at sectionals of her junior year. Savannah tears her ACL, MCL, and Meniscus doing a beam routine in front of 3 judges and a crowd of people. After the surgery and she is told she may go back to gymnastics she waits for three months because she does not want to “break’” herself again. Her best friend Cassie encourages her to quit, making Savannah feel pressured into quitting. At the moment Savannah doesn’t realize who her real friends are. After Savannah has a realization promoted by her boyfriend about Cassie she decides to give gymnastics another chance. After the first week back at the gym Savannah is more confident in herself and comes to the realization that she still wants to be on a college level gymnastics team. After improving a whole routine at State, Savannah places with one of her worst scores in her whole life, Savannah celebrates because the score is still high enough for her to qualify for regionals.
Recommendation: I would recommend this book to middle school girls who enjoy sports. This book is the perfect story for someone who was injured and isn’t sure about returning to their sport. I really enjoyed Lessons In Falling
Warning: A lot of confusion lies ahead. You've been warned.
2-4 stars? No rating? Honestly, I don't have a clue on how to rate this book.
Let's start with something easy: the writing style. While it wasn't my favourite, I really didn't hate it. However, as the main character is a teenager there is a lot of texting, and it wasn't clear when it was texting or when it was part of the narrative. It would all be together in one paragraph, no italics, no quotation marks, nothing to differentiate between text messages and the rest of the story, which as you can imaging, was annoying as hell.
I liked the aspect of the gymnastics. At first. Then I got bored. But this might just be me; I got bored and kinda skipped a bit of it. At first I did like it, and the author has actually experienced everything at first hand I believe, so I was genuinely interested on how it all worked.
As for the characters. . . I'm not sure. I know that Cass is a horrible, manipulative friend. But that's the extent of it, and I'll explain more about that in a second.
Ok, so now to the part that has me all conflicted. There are a lot of Latinos characters, which you at this point in history, makes it seem like an statement. However, I have absolutely no idea what that statement is. It could honestly go either way.
The characters go to a school somewhere in New York I believe, where for some reason, there are more Latinos then, you know, gringos. Like, seriously, of the cast of characters I could name right now more than half are Latinos. And I've been to New York, I know that there are are lot of Hispanic people there and pretty much half of the city is in both English and Spanish. But it felt really weird. I also found it weird that there were a lot of Hispanics but I don't remember any Asians or Indians, which again, is weird. And I know that my experience is not everyone's experience, and that just because I know it one way that means it can't be other way. It was just odd.
Then there's the main character. I still don't know how I feel about her. I'm going to most expecially refer to the point(s) where she defends Latinos. That could honestly go either way. On one hand, it makes her seem like she believes she's better than everyone else cause she's so considerate and "gets it." On the other hand, is like: "Yes! She actually gets it! She knows that there are more Latinos other than Mexicans. She doesn't hate. We should build her a freaking shrine," you know. But then again, it was also like: "Oh yeah, she's not ignorant. Does that really make her all that better than anyone else? Did the author do this on purpose JUST to makes us like her? JUST to make an statement? JUST to say something?" I mean, of course she was using her work to say something, but again, I can't decide how to take it.
I definitely need to take some time apart from this book before giving an actual rating. And to sort my thoughts. And to decided whether I, as a Mexican, should be offended or grateful.
Despite the synopsis, Diana Gallagher's Lessons in Falling is not really about gymnastics. I would say the bulk of the story is about protagonist Savannah overcoming her fear of failure and taking chances. This extends to gymnastics, yes, but more to her long time friendship with her best friend, Cassie. It's a book that's primarily about Savannah trying to move forward after a possibly career-ending injury, and the people who both help and hinder her.
What I liked about this book was the realism of the friendships in it - from Cassie to Savannah's former teammate Emery, to her love interest Marcos. The characters are rounded and sympathetic - at least those four are.
The problem, though, was that I didn't feel like there were smooth transitions between Savannah's interactions with each of them and the plot of the book. There was just a little too much going on here, and the packed in themes of moving forward, how much to expect of a friendship, mental illness, racial tensions, and taking chances felt a bit muddled. I think the themes needed a little bit longer to bake because it just didn't feel like every word in the book was working towards the same goal.
Still, there's promise here, especially in the complexity of the race relations and the way that the friendship between Cassie and Savannah is portrayed. I would love to see another novel by this author with a little less going on.
This coming of age story focuses on a gymnast whose injury has caused her to reconsider her dream of going to college on a gymnastics scholarship. At the same time, she's navigating a rough patch with her best friend and wondering if she really knows Cassie or not. Then there's the boy she meets. The fact that Marcos doesn't know her as an accomplished gymnast allows her to explore more of her identity and who she really wants to be.
I reviewed an electronic ARC on NetGalley courtesy of the publisher.
This is more of a story of two friends falling apart. While I don't think the suicide attempt by Cassie was misdone, I do feel like it could have been easily replaced by another reason. I received an ecopy of this book through Netgalley; however, my opinions are my own.
I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affects my opinion of the book.
I don’t think I’ve been this conflicted about a book in a while.
On the surface, Lessons In Falling is about learning how to let go of the fear of failure, something that’s relatable at any age. Underneath the surface, this is a book that tries to tackle a lot of issues with mixed results.
I was drawn into this book by the complicated relationship between the main character, Savannah, and her best friend Cassie. From the beginning, we get a sense of just how opposite the two girls are: Savannah is fearful, while Cassie is bold; Savannah works hard in school to earn a scholarship, while Cassie skips class; Savannah wants to resume gymnastics, while Cassie intends to protect her.
I really enjoy stories about the complications when it comes to girl friends (see also: A Sense of the Infinite). The major plot of this book has to do with Savannah coming to terms with the fact that she and Cassie are growing apart, and that the growth is necessary for them both to become who they need to be. This is something I’ve gone through over and over again, so I enjoyed reading about it.
mental health as a plot device
The problem: Cassie’s depression and her suicide attempt converge with how toxic she is as a friend.
On the one hand, the subtle signs Cassie gives off before her suicide attempt really resonated with me. I felt for her. But on the other hand, the suicide attempt itself comes across as a plot device—as a reason for Savannah and Cassie to grow apart. Cassie doesn’t talk about her depression with Savannah, wanting to protect her friend from the darkness, but ultimately Savannah doesn’t feel that she can do anything to help. I get where Savannah comes from, but I felt that it was problematic to set up their friendship this way.
When someone is depressed and suicidal, the last thing they need is a friend who disappears on them. Something Cassie says over and over again is how she just wants Savannah to be her friend, no more and no less. She doesn’t want another therapist, she wants a friend to just hang out and do nothing with her. However, the story posits this as Cassie asking too much of her friend—and this is problematic to me.
racism against Latinx immigrants
Savannah’s world is naturally diverse, in that she lives in a community with a large population of Latinx immigrants who face stereotyping, harassments, and bullying on a regular basis. This felt very realistic to me, but I felt that the racism was also used as a plot device, and not in a satisfying way.
At multiple points, racial slurs are used, not by the main characters themselves, but by unknown entities who graffiti lockers and get into fights. The graffiti slur is pointed to again and again in the text, driving home the point that this high school is filled with racism. At one point, Savannah talks to her father, the AP Calc teacher, about the racism. His response? Well kid, that’s just the way it is. At no point in this book do the racists get what’s coming to them, which, while possibly true to reality, isn’t exactly a good message—nor is it satisfying to read.
Additionally, many of the Latinx side characters fall into stereotypes: they all live in the crappy neighborhood together that’s loud and “dangerous” (although the story never shows any of the actual danger there, it’s just implied). While Marcos is well-developed, he and his male friends are always getting into fights—another stereotype. Juliana, Cassie’s friend, is extremely standoffish for most of the book, and another Latina is pretty much a total Fiesty Latina stereotype thrown in as if to color up Savannah’s world.
bottom line: I feel like the author tried to do a lot here. I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt in that I believe her intentions were to write a naturally diverse story, to address some of the problems she’s aware of in our racist society, and to talk about complex friendships. At the end of the day, though, none of these big issues were really addressed in a meaningful way. The book tries to stretch itself so far that none of these problems are dealt with accurately or fully.
Ultimately, this is a book about racism written for white folks who consider themselves allies; this is a book about depression and suicide for people who’ve never been depressed or suicidal themselves, people who believe it’s okay to let go of a friend going through an incredibly hard time. This is a book for folks who like gymnastics, yes, absolutely. Ultimately, the only rewarding part of the story for me was the theme of Savannah conquering her fear of failure—and that’s why I’m giving this 3 stars.
I can’t say that I would highly recommend this book to anyone, although I also can’t say that I hated reading it. There were aspects I really enjoyed, and others I didn’t. Read with caution, I guess? Read with an open mind ready to think about the portrayals critically. Otherwise, don’t bother.
Savannah is a sixteen year-old former gymnastics champion who's still recovering from the knee injury she suffered six months ago. She's had surgery and physical therapy, and can't imagine going back to gymnastics because she can't be perfect.
She lives in a small coastal New York town that's having a social crisis over the large number of immigrant Mexicans and DREAMers who've taken up residence in this locale. Savannah's always been sheltered by her family--her father's a teacher at her high school, an d her best friend, Cassie--who's loud and audacious. Cassie stayed at Savannah's bedside as she recovered from injuries and surgeries, and shes' struggling hard, but Savannah's too caught up in her own misery to really notice, until Cassie attempts suicide.
Then, Savannah starts to question all their interactions, Cassie's newer friendships with kids from the migrant community, and why Savannah can't just get past her paralyzing fears. Part of this is re-envisioning her life, and letting in new people, like Marcos, who help Savannah see that sometimes the relationships we hold dearest aren't the most healthy.
For me, this was an okay read. I liked the parts where Savannah challenged herself to get back on the pommel horse and rehab completely. She had more friends in her life than she'd first let on, and Cassie was a good-ish friend, I thought. She struggled, sure, but her affection and compassion were unquestioned. Savannah seemed way more self-centered than I was comfortable with, and Marcos urged her to be even more so. I wasn't really upset about that, because it is important to find one's own path, but Savannah's actions came off as callous and borderline negligent. I do understand that some friendships are co-dependent and unhealthy, I get that, but the manner of Savannah's reckoning and reconciliation were awkward and unkind. Considering how attentive Cassie had been to her, Savannah's own actions felt mean by comparison.
The subplot of anti-immigrant sentiment and violence was odd, and Savannah's interaction on this front was, uh, nutso? That's probably not a clinical term, but how she behaved was beyond rational and the resolution of that crisis was entirely too convenient. I also had an issue with elements of the timeline. Savannah's family life was weird, and her brother's experience in the military was intimated to be far longer than the actual year that it would have been, if a reader (like me) did the math. There's a little bit of romance, and lotta bit of rehab--both physical and emotional--with Savannah finding her true path back to her old life. This time she has some new pals, a boyfriend and a college plan. It's got heartwarming moments, even if Savannah reads as analytical and cold.
Lesson learned: I shouldn't pick up books wrapped in my favorite unsung sports that are secretly about other things. I lost out with reading Winger because of RUGBY!! and I lost out again reading Lessons in Falling because of GYMNASTICS!! Well, okay, I know being me I'm going to keep picking them up (anyone know of a book about a rhythmic gymnast?), but I should expect disappointment going forward. Once again, that rating picked up at least half a star because gymnastics was included (knowledgeably- if it wasn't included knowledgeably it would have been down to one star).
The "other thing the book is secretly about" in this case is suicide and toxic friendships. ...And racism? ...And PTSD? This book is deep in the throes of an identity crisis and needs to figure out actually what it's about. If the story had settled down and not tried to force in any meaningful YA topic possible, it would have been way more effective. There was some real potential here to really do some good exploration of the question "At what point do you have to put your own well-being above trying to 'rescue' a self-destructive and toxic friend?", but instead suffered from jack of all trades, master of none syndrome.
And along with that, boy is there a bunch of soapboxing in this book. I'm just not a fan of authors using their fiction as a mouthpiece to inform their readers of their "proper" opinions. Addressing sensitive topics and moral messages in fiction shouldn't involve a character giving a straight-up sermon. Not to mention the way the Latin American characters were dealt with left me a lot of times wondering whether I should be uncomfortable.
Savannah was underwhelming to me. Just a fairly flat characterization, in my opinion. She's not bad, and there are good components there, but all in all, I found her a pretty forgettable character. She felt a little like she was written so much to be a relatable character to all the readers that she lost some of her own dynamic.
Cassie was just all-around frustrating. The characterization of her is so hot and cold. Sometimes she's made out to be the greatest friend who's the only one who stands by Savannah, sometimes she's made out to be the ultimate toxic and manipulative relationship. And for most of the book, I was kind of confused why we were supposed to have any real sympathy for her in the first place.
The other characters, though, I appreciated. Marcos was a decent (and decently well-rounded) love interest. He was often the mouthpiece through which the author delivered her sermons, but I won't hold that against him. I was a fan of the developing grudging respect dynamic with Juliana. The other side characters in the soccer team circle were all likable and added some fun and dynamic to the story, so I appreciated that. I also was a fan of Savannah's teammates, and though they all fell a little bit in the "girl next door" category, Emery was probably my favorite secondary character in the story.
Ultimately, though, if you're looking for a good gymnastics read, I'd direct you to Lauren Hopkins, if you're looking for a good piece on Latin American discrimination, I suggest you watch Stand and Deliver, and if you're looking for a good YA which explores suicide... well, I'm sure there's a Goodreads list out there to help you.
Oof. This book is a dilemma and a half. Diana Gallagher did an incredible job of crafting a story about a toxic friendship. In this case, the motives and feelings of each party are so realistic it hurts. You feel empathy for both sides.
We all grow up and grow apart, and that's a freaky thing to realize. We get so caught up in the memories that it's hard to let go. This book could have very easily been from Cassie's perspective. We could have gone through the gauntlet of mental illness, betrayal and helplessness, and feeling like everyone in life was moving on without us.
Instead, we get the far less sympathetic Savannah perspective. Why why why is she pulling away and acting different? Why doesn't she get things anymore? Why is she doing reckless things and putting herself in harm's way? Why isn't she around at the hospital, or to help her friend out when she needs her most? — Somehow, Diana Gallagher miraculously quells these potential questions (except the hospital one... come on, how could Cassie be there all the time when Savannah was recovering from her torn ACL, but not the other way around? Girl is a bit self-absorbed too).
One of my nearest and dearest friends apparently told someone else in reference to me, "You know, if we met today, I don't think we'd still become friends." Hearing that hurt a lot. I am Cassie in that way — loyal to a fault and not ready to let go of all the good times and memories and CARING for my close friends, even as they move on, change, and prioritize other people. It's a bit helpless, to be honest. This book helps me understand the other perspective to some extent, but it still feels a bit untethered. I feel so much for Cassie, and yet... I understand Savannah too, and I get her struggles.
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to Spencer Hill Press and NetGalley*
After one injury too many, Savannah quit gymnastics, much to the disappointment of her parents. When Sav's best friend, Cassie, attempts suicide, Sav wonders just how well she knows Cassie. Sav grows closer to Marcos, the guy that found Cassie, and who believes that Sav can still achieve her gymnastics dreams and that Cassie is no good for her. Will Sav give up gymnastics for good? Is Cassie the friend that Sav thinks she is?
As someone that finds gymnasts inspirational and thinks that they're amazing, I was intrigued to read a book with one as the main character. I really liked Savannah - she was smart, determined and a good person. She had gone through a rough time with all her injuries so I could see why she didn't want to continue with gymnastics and risk another injury. Apart from Sav, Emery and Marcos were the other characters that stood out for me. They were the kind of people that you would want to be friends with. I had mixed feelings about Cassie - at times I liked her but at others she annoyed me. The plot was interesting and made me want to read on, but I wasn't gripped. I thought that the author handled the topics of racism and friendships well and realistically. I liked the writing style for the most part, but there were moments when I wasn't sure who Sav was talking to or about (which may have been because of the formatting. I'm not sure).
After Savannah blows out her knee during the Regions gymnastics tournament in front of her family, friends and college recruiters, she decides she's done with the sport forever. Done with the pain. Done with her body failing her. She's content to let her best friend Cassie take the lead and plan their senior year and future in NYC.
Then Cassie tries to kill herself.
I loved it. It accurately portrays the guilt, hurt and confusion when a friend tries to harm themselves and it seemed like there were no clues. Then you realized there were clues all along, and you were just making excuses. It also shows the parts of yourself you reveal to different people, and how everyone has a piece of the puzzle but aren't able to connect for the entire picture.
Savannah is a great character. This is a girl who told her gym teacher she had the stigmata after her calluses ripped open in gym class. Hurt physically and mentally after her knee injury and suffering round after round of defeat with the DMV, she proves her resiliency over and over. She might get beat down, she might indulge in self-pity, but then she gets up and tries. When she starts waking up from her dream-life, she begins to see that maybe what she has isn't what she needs, and that maybe no one is as put-together as they seem on the outside.
I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review.
DNF at about 60%. I like the gymnastics aspects, but the racial stuff made me really uncomfortable. There are slurs used multiple times against Latinx/Hispanic people. I don't think the author is Latinx/Hispanic, but I'm not positive. I'm *really* not ok with authors using slurs if they're not a part of that group.
All the Latinx/Hispanic characters come from the "bad" part of town. There are negative things said about Latinx/Hispanic people that are never addressed as being wrong in the book. In the parts where racism *is* addressed, we get white savior moments where the white protagonist defends Latinx/Hispanic people and her Mexican love interest thanks her. Ick.
Some more trigger warnings: - Suicide was treated like a plot device that was quickly brushed aside. It was handled so badly. I do NOT recommend this for people who are suicidal. - There's a ton of gaslighting by characters in this book. I'm not saying authors can't ever include that. But this book seems to be marketed as a cutesy story about a gymnast getting her confidence back, when it's really a darker story about her friend gaslighting her.
I gave it a 2nd star because I did like the few gymnastics moments. Other than that, I'd rate it 1 star.
Lessons in Falling has the expert touch of a gymnast in writer Diana Gallagher. Although the focus of the story is gymnastics, the book is so much more. This is not one of those themed books for young readers aimed at an audience of pre-teen and teenage girls who are, were, or want to be gymnasts. The scope of this book ranges from teenage friendships to romantic relationships. It encompasses issues common to teenagers: college applications and scholarships, driver’s tests, depression, texting, work issues, immigration, parental expectations, extracurricular activities, and discrimination. The plot centers around Savannah, an aspiring gymnast who has suffered an injury, and her longtime friend, Cass. It explores their personalities and relationship during their critical senior year of high school. Teenage years are chaotic for many; Gallagher does not oversimplify or exaggerate the difficulties her characters encounter.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Spencer Hill Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
I received a free ebook copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review
Hmm... I would say that my initial thoughts on this book are that I found it rather slow and boring. That may just be because of me, and not actually the way it's written, but that's probably why it took me so long to read. But while it didn't grab my attention the way I would have wanted, that wasn't the only (or the biggest) issue. The casual racism and serious stereotyping of races was a major issue for me, and seemed extremely completely unnecessary. Those comments didn't add anything to the story, and just made it all the more problematic. Also. The suicide attempt? Okay, right... Cassie attempts suicide, and then Savannah... bails? What the heck is that about? Okay, sure, Cassie was an extremely manipulative friend but I really don't think it's right for the time when Cassie is so vulnerable and in need of a friend for Savannah to just ditch her. I've had my fair share of manipulative friends, but I can honestly say that I wouldn't do that. And just a quick note - ignoring the issues for a second - Savannah was such a dull narrator? I don't know anything about her even though I just read an entire book in her voice and head. Surely... that's an issue? Anyway, overall, I'd say I only gave 2 stars instead of 1 because they go to the beach a lot and I love the beach. Other than that, quite a few issues in Lessons in Falling which can't really be overlooked.
This book was interesting as I do not know anything about gymnastics other than my daughter participates in it. This story does a great job of introducing you to the sport.
Savannah's a senior in high school who had a nearly career ending injury, so to speak, in gymnastics. She was able to recover from the injury, but she was afraid to do anything more in gymnastics for fear that she would permanently ruin her knee. As if that weren't difficult to recover from, her father teaches at her high school, and he won't get off her case about returning to gymnastics. Then the unspeakable happens, and her best friend, Cassie, attempts suicide.
Savannah has to navigate these challenges during her last year of school. She even finds time to meet a new guy friend who educates her about immigration in a way she had not thought of it before. There are so many elements and layers to this book, but it is handled beautifully. I strongly recommend this book. It ends open-ended, so if that's not your bag, pass on this book.
This book was not only read, but has meaning. There are many events that at times make you want to slap the characters hard (stupid comments and decisions) however then take in realization that if our lives were put into a book, we would read it and feel the same.
This book drives deeply into your soul as certain events happen. To be honest the beginning was kind of slow but if you just read on you get that feeling inside that you feel like you're the character and what happens to them happens to you; your stomach will twist, your insides will scream and relax, you're emotions will whir until the very end. I love this book and would recommend it to anyone who likes to read fiction especially fiction that could be real but isn't.
Many might have a different view on the book those being bad because of the events that go on, however it's all in the sense of life. Lessons you can learn from the book too. You just have to connect with the story.
Solely based on the blurb, I'd imagine that Lessons in Falling is a fun marshmallow contemporary set somewhere like Nebraska about a girl struggling to get back into her gymnastics career. Sweet and harmless.
Instead, what I got was the book that I didn't know I would fall in love with. It's fierce and fearless, tackling issues of racism, illegal immigration, poverty, injured athletes, and the complicated world of gymnastics.
If you want a book like the former, I'd gladly point you toward Shawn Johnson's The Flip Side.
But the latter is what stood out to me. The characters are complex, the relationships develop well, and the romance is sweet. I haven't seen a character who had perfect dry humor, wasn't awkward, was sweet, grew over the course of the novel, AND was believable in... I can't even remember the last time I had a character like that. Getting to know Savannah was a lot of fun, and I loved her character.
Lessons in Falling is the book that I didn't know that I needed. It does feel much longer than its 250 pages, but it also accomplishes more in that short span than most books.
About the first quarter of the book is dedicated to covering Savannah's developing relationship with Marcos, her friendship with Cassie, and her struggle with the idea of coming back to gymnastics. One of the minor issues that I had with this novel that started in the beginning was that words and phrases are used repeatedly to describe a certain situation or memory. It felt like Gallagher was trying too hard to get her readers to think of the characters or situation a certain way, but this is a debut novel, and I think it's something that she'll grow out of as she grows to trust her audience more.
The story goes on to include several notable side characters and build up Savannah's network of friends. The developing relationships was quite possibly my favorite part of Lessons in Falling. We get to follow every notable character through his or her own struggles, but we also get to see Savannah reconnect with old friends, come to like someone that she initially disliked, get into a relationship, and attempt to preserve the relationships she has now. I admired Savannah's loyalty to her friends and her understanding in the best and worst of situations. None of the characters were pushovers, but they tried to make room for each other, and I loved that about them. All of this, without the added drama and petties. This book is a gift.
And then Cassie tries to kill herself and throws everything off the tracks.
It was during this suicide attempt moment that I truly began to appreciate Gallagher's writing. Depression and suicide are no small issues that suddenly come about because of nothing, and she doesn't portray them that way. It was only after the fact that I recognized all the warning signs of depression in Cassie, and I was just as surprised by what happened as Savannah was.
Unfortunately, the transition between pre-suicide Savannah and post-suicide Savannah was the most rocky part. It was the only section of the novel where I felt that things were a tiny bit unrealistic. Savannah makes a lot of decisions out of the blue, or with the slightest nudging. I get that many things changed after what happened with Cassie, but it could've been smoothed over.
As mentioned above, Lessons in Falling explores many different themes, but in the end, this is a story about the friendship between Cassie and Savannah. The blurb does a good job of explaining the predicament: Savannah's growing up and getting into Marcos and gymnastics, but Cassie doesn't like either of those things. Even though there were some great crowd-pleasing moments to the ending, what the way that Gallagher handled Cassie and Savannah's relationship was what most impressed me.
Cassie isn't perfect. Savannah isn't perfect. They're growing up, and they're growing apart. They don't tell each other everything anymore. It's not like when they were kids, but they still manage to find a way to make it work. Gallagher recognizes the complexity of the issue, and she ends the story in a pretty satisfactory way.
Overall, I'd say that Lessons in Falling is the story that I needed a year ago when all of my most anticipated picks were falling through. The story was everything I wanted from Elizabeth Eulberg's Take a Bow, and I know I'll be rereading and recommending it. That being said, it's not perfect. There were issues with the writing that need to be buffed out. The pacing was too slow, the story dragged at certain points, and the description was good but overused. It's not as polished as it could be, but all the elements are there. I believe that the author has the potential to grow tremendously in the years to come, and I look forward to what she has to offer.
Wow. Talk about lessons in falling. Falling from gymnastic grace, falling in love, falling in and out of friendships. How about me, falling in love with this book? As an amateur athlete and professional dancer, I absolutely adored this realistic description of sports, physical pain, the passion of MOVING. As someone from Long Island, I can say: Gallagher has describing that neck of the woods DOWN. The racial tensions, the small town attitudes. All the feels. This is a great YA book that adults will gobble up as well. The writing is smooth, and deft. The messages both direct and subtle. I don't want to give too much away, so just go buy it, and READ IT!
I'm sure that there are many that will find this book interesting. They will think the struggle between these two girls - to keep their friendship status quo as they grow and change - and Savannah's adventure into dating someone that has some issues deeply meaningful and moving.
I'm just not one of them. I didn't find the gymnastics that distracting, although I almost broke down to find out what some of the moves and flips terminology meant. And I liked the added edge of Marcos and some of the drama that he brought.
But I just never felt engaged. I never felt pulled into the story. Savannah was kind of even keel through her life and so the story felt pretty bland and stale.
The writing was flawless, beautifully crafted sentences with a strong storyline. The relationship between the two best friends felt real as they dealt with their growing apart. I loved the cultural stories of Marcos and his friends, a world I am personally familiar with. The author did a great job with the main character's relationship with both her boyfriend and her parents. All felt authentic. She also created the world of gymnastics and injury in a visceral way for the reader that made it another fully formed character in the book.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.