The Fall by Colleen Nelson

You may recall my review of Tory By Design by Colleen Nelson. If not, you can read it here. While Tory had a lighter tone to it, The Fall has a completely different feel. It is much grittier and courser than Tory, which is how it should be considering the subject matter. Set around the tragic death of a teenager, The Fall explores the effects it has on the boy’s three friends. Each teen tries to deal with the tragedy in their own way, which often leads to some very bad choices. Colleen delves into the topic with extreme sensitivity and creates empathy for her characters.

She adeptly brings the three boys to life. The main character, Ben, turns to his passion for skateboarding after Luke’s death in an attempt to put the tragedy behind him. Colleen’s research into the sport is evident by the terminology and expressions her character uses when he is in ‘Benjiland’, what he calls the zone he enters when zooming along on his board.

The surviving brother feels he should have been the one to die, not the ‘favourite son’. The tensions that arise because of that, push him away from his family instead of having them to lean on during the initial grieving period. He is essentially alone, dealing with the worst event of his young life.

The other friend shifts the blame for the accident onto Ben, hoping that will alleviate some of the guilt he feels. When that doesn’t help, he turns to a local gang for the acceptance that he doesn’t feel at home.

Each boy comes from a family in which the father is either out of the picture or rather ineffectual as a positive role model. One father died in a car accident that the son survived. Another is an alcoholic, giving the son the impression one can drink away their problems. The third is a ‘Deadbeat Dad’, bailing on his responsibilities as a father. As a result, the teens are put under greater stress, adding to the downward spiral of their lives. Will they be able to pull up in time to survive? That will be up to you to find out! 🙂

The death of a teenager is always a tragic event, whether it is caused by an accident or illness. I found myself crying through many scenes, as I remembered my daughter’s grief when a friend of hers died, suddenly, just before her 16th birthday. While that was caused by an unknown illness, there were so many questions like, ‘Why did she have to die?’, ‘Was there something I could have done to prevent it?’, and a bit of survivor’s guilt amongst her friends, ‘It should have been me’. Each of Colleen’s characters consider these questions, too, and the guilt they feel at being alive when their friend was not drives them away from people who care about them.

This would be a fantastic story to use in a classroom, helping students see how the characters coped with their friend’s death. The discussions that could be initiated would definitely help other teens who may be dealing with a similar situation in their own lives. I highly recommend The Fall as a wonderful read as well as a resource for other teenagers who may be having a hard time coping with a friend’s death, too.

Book blurb:

Before Luke came into his life, all Ben cared about was skateboarding, and whether his father would ever remember that he was alive. Then there was Luke, and it felt like he was being carried along on some sort of wave. But then Luke died, and everyone at school thinks it’s his fault. Maybe it is. The Fall charts the lives of three boys as they deal with the death of their friend and brother. One turns to alcohol to escape his guilt. Another looks to a gang to replace what he’s lost. Ben needs to find a way to reconcile his role in Luke’s death and prove that he was not to blame. He must also learn that the man he will become is his to define.

About Colleen:

Colleen Nelson examines the consequence of choice in her novels, through believable teen characters in juxtaposing situations and social structures. She has lived in Japan and New York City, but currently resides with her husband in Winnipeg.

I hope Colleen will be joining me here on Sunday for my ‘Sunday Interview’, so you can learn more about this talented writer. 🙂