Playing catch up with a few of my January reads. This was one of the first books I dove head first into this month. Let’s not waste time here and head towards the review of this book.
Even If I Fall
Genre: YA Contemporary
Would I Recommend: Yes – if you want to cry
Overview of the book:
Brooke and her family are social pariahs after her older brother admitted to killing his best friend over a year prior to where this story begins. Brooke is broken, lonely, ashamed, lost, and any other difficult emotion you can imagine. She begins a new friendship with an outsider who doesn’t know yet about her family’s past and she also begins to connect to Heath – the brother of boy her own brother killed. They begin navigating their emotions with and on each other (sometimes in a negative way, sometimes not) to learn to cope with the pain they both feel.
I cried. I was lying in bed at one point in this book and my husband came in and asked why I was crying. I didn’t know how to explain that Brooke’s pain was so realistic at points and that I resonated so much with it that it hurt me. This story is not perfect – it isn’t flawlessly written or explored. However, it is a tangle of realness and those are the pieces that stuck with me the most.
Brooke is navigating in a world that she doesn’t understand and feels completely alone in doing. She has a new acquired friend, Maggie, who just arrived into town and doesn’t yet know why she is such a secluded person. Brooke’s only escape is the ice skating she has been doing since a young age.
Happenstance finds Brooke crossing paths with Heath – the brother of the boy her own brother murdered. I enjoyed this relationship. They are two people who should and do despise each other – because they “should” given their situations. There is a decent amount of honest conversation between the two and some of it made me cringe a little with how rough things were between them, as you’d expect. However, I enjoyed this strangeness – that they both were so desperate to feel something besides the hollowness they’d been feeling for different reasons, and how they worked through them by bouncing off each other.
The parts that actually tore my heart apart were around Brooke’s family. There were scenes where she is so utterly helpless and desperate to connect again, even for just a split second, with her mom, dad, or sister and it doesn’t happen again and again. Maybe I related to this because of my own personal life more than someone else might – but these scenes killed me. Johnson made Brooke feel, for me, like she was at the bottom of a deep well, struggling to keep her head above water and not give up on life. Brooke’s will to keep going despite everything she was living through was such a great light in this story, and I appreciated the darkness we were shown, too. Heartbreaking on so many levels.
I also want to touch on Brooke’s relationship with her brother which I think is important for the story. He is a murderer. He is not a pure character. But Brooke still loves him – that is still her brother. Johnson paints a great dilemma where I tried to figure out how I would feel if this was one of my siblings. Do we stop loving someone who was once so important to us for doing such a heinous act? Brooke didn’t stop and I appreciated that look as this is a reality for many people who have family or good friends who may have done (or are accused of doing) similar acts.
The reasons I didn’t give this a full 5 / 5 was because there were parts of the ice skating sections that bored me. I get it. I do. I understand the need to have this piece of her life she can rely on despite everything else. I used to ice skate for years as a child. I get it. Promise. But sometimes it was so boring.
The other reason was because I wasn’t 100% living for the “mysterious” piece towards the end around her brother. It felt forced compared to the rest of the story. I would have been OK if the story didn’t have this piece in it – the emotions tied to this story were enough for me.
Overall rating: 4.25 / 5