Sunday, September 2, 2012

Review: ‘Falling In Between’ by Devon Ashley

Finally! A private conversation. And all I had to do was throw myself off a cliff, drown in a pond in my undies and let him put his hands on my breasts to bring me back to life. Yay me…(yeah, that’s sarcasm) Yep, that pretty much sums up the most craptastic night of Jenna Baker’s life. She drowns after jumping off a cliff, meets a hotty named Chance in the pearlescent in-between and is brought back to life by her soon-to-be boyfriend Robert. Just when things start to move forward with Robert, the guy she'd been crushing on for a year now, in walks the man of her dreams – literally. Chance suddenly appears in her dream every time she closes her eyes. So it's Robert by day and Chance by night. One in the real world and one in the dream world. What could possibly go wrong? Absolutely nothing – until she comes face to face with the guy she met in the in-between, and realizes her romantic rendezvous with Chance may be more than just her imagination.
(Amazon product description)

I am so on the fence with this book.  I bought it on a whim, and I’m really glad I did.  I loved the concept.  It’s a new twist on the love triangle--one boy in the “real world” during the day and the other at night in her dreams.  The author actually managed something few authors can pull off in a love triangle--she created strong chemistry with both boys equally.  At least she did in the first half of the book. 

See, there is where I am on the fence.  I loved the first half of this book.  The dialog is witty and flirty, yet very age appropriate for the characters.  I liked the idea that Jenna could let loose her inhibitions more with Chance because she knew it was only a dream, but at the same time, the emotions created in the dream really hit her hard later in the real world.  I would have really liked more of a contrast between her behavior with Robert and her behavior with Chance.  This sort of got lost as the book progressed.  In fact, about halfway through, the author decided to forgo developing the relationship with Chance altogether.  It was so disappointing!  The thing is the book is short enough, and fast-paced enough, that the author could have expanded this.  In my opinion, the short-changing of Chance was a huge missed opportunity. 

Another huge missed opportunity was Jenna’s foster system status.  I would have liked a little subplot there with what it is actually like to be a ward of the state.  I’m sure she would have had to meet regularly with social workers, maybe a therapist.  If she didn’t, why not?  It is never addressed.  All we see if that she was in the system since she was an infant and had the ambition enough to apply for a scholarship at a private boarding school.  It is treated so matter-of-factly, it becomes unimportant.  But my issue is that it should be important to the character.  What were her feelings about aging out of the system and no longer getting state support? 

My respect for Jenna as a character really fell off toward the end of the novel.  The way she handled the Chance/Robert situation was ridiculous.  It was almost like her character completely changed from the beginning of the novel, and not in a good way.  She suddenly becomes extremely selfish and treats Robert like crap.  I wanted to reach into my Kindle and smack her.

Lastly, I have to say something about the sexuality in the book.  I’m not a prude.  I know teens have sex, and it irritates me when YA authors refuse to address sexual issues even when it is completely appropriate.  (Your characters have been completely in love and kissing on each other for a year and the subject of going further has never come up?  Really?)  That said, I think sexual issues need to be handled in a different way in young adult fiction than they are in adult, or even new adult, books.  I think the thing that really bothered me here was that Jenna was always “taking care” of Robert, but refused her own sexual needs.  I think this reinforces the idea that female sexuality is somehow less important or less valid.  Let’s face it, I was a teenager once, and it was all about the boy.  It took age and maturity for me to get control of my own needs and feel equal to my partner.  It’s kind of sad that teen girls today are still in that rut.  I just think if an author is going to chose to introduce sex to their teen characters, I’d like to see it done in a way that can send healthy messages to teen readers. 

Overall, I give Falling In Between...

Plot - 3 1/2 bookmarks
Character development - 3 bookmarks (Started strong, but Jenna turned selfish and Chance got lost.)
Love story - 3 bookmarks (I really wanted to give it a five, but the magic created in the first half of the book wasn’t sustained.  It’s a shame.)
Paranormal elements - 3 1/2 bookmarks
Dream cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) - Elizabeth Olson (Jenna), Joshua Bowman (Robert), Ed Speelers (Chance), Juno Temple (Sophie), Corbin Blue (Jhett)

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