January 24, 2012
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It starts with an itch you just can't shake. Then comes a fever and a tickle in your throat. A few days later, you'll be blabbing your secrets and chatting with strangers like they’re old friends. Three more, and the paranoid hallucinations kick in.
And then you're dead.
Sixteen-year-old Kaelyn and her family recently moved back to the island where she grew up after five years in Toronto. The small island is a common summer vacation destination and, until recently, was also home to the best friend, Leo, that Kaelyn was hoping to patch things up with.
Leo and Kaelyn were best friends but their relationships became estranged while she was living in Toronto and now he's moved away. The book is told through a journal she's writing to him.
The virus starts out innocently enough but then people who were healthy just days before are suddenly dead . . . followed quickly by more, of all ages with no one sure how or why.
As a seemingly ever increasing number of people become infected with no one any closer to the cure and the island quarantined, those still uninfected become more desperate. Not only do they have to fight to stay healthy and alive, they have to stay safe from each other. As time wears on, they must fight for the decreasing supplies - or risk something other than the virus being their downfall.
Even with everything seeming to fall apart, Kaelyn finds unlikely allies -- and maybe even love.
The Way We Fall reminded me of Under the Dome in a lot of ways. Both revolved around a small town suddenly cut off from the outside world and facing a threat from within. The Way We Fall had the extra threat of the virus and the people inside weren't quite as nefarious (then again, it wasn't the one written by Stephen King).
Both the virus that was gradually (or perhaps, not so gradually) destroying the town and its inhabitants and the downfall of the islands social structure were each done really well. While they could have been competing elements, they were very cohesive, symbiotic. We saw how the increasing effect of the virus affected the populace. More personally, we see how this all impacts Kaelyn's life.
Kaelyn's interests and hobbies make it interesting to read about her character and add some different events to the earlier part of the story. They also play into latter parts of the novel in ways that weren't expected (at least by me) but work very well. She still makes some dumb choices that I wanted to stop her from making, but ones that were, even at the time, understandable. Her love for Meredith is, also, a fantastic part of the story.
Both Meredith and Kaelyn are great characters but some of the scenes where they're together were even better.
Tessa's character never quite became more than an 'alright' secondary character for me. There were events and circumstances that could, possibly, have created an emotional connection with her character but something prevented it. Either, that things were told through Kaelyn and Tessa continued to seem so removed or that Tessa was so removed and that didn't work. I appreciated what her character added, to the characters and to the plot, so I'm glad she was a part of things.
This is a dystopia that is perhaps a bit less frightening, in terms of its potential reality, than most others (unless, of course, you live on an island!) but very well done. After this and In the After I'm reconsidering my backyard . . .