Author: Cammie McGovern
Synopsis: Emily has always been the kind of girl who tries to do the right thing—until one night when she does the worst thing possible. She sees Belinda, a classmate with developmental disabilities, being attacked. Inexplicably, she does nothing at all.
Belinda, however, manages to save herself. When their high school finds out what happened, Emily and Lucas, a football player who was also there that night, are required to perform community service at a center for disabled people. Soon, Lucas and Emily begin to feel like maybe they’re starting to make a real difference. Like they would be able to do the right thing if they could do that night all over again. But can they do anything that will actually help the one person they hurt the most?
Huge thank you to HarperTeen/Harper Collins Canada for this ARC!
Well this book took me by surprise! Last year I really enjoyed McGovern’s debut (despite one HUGE point in the book that really made me unhappy), so I was very much looking forward to another one by her. I really love that McGovern writes so honestly about disabilities.
This book took me a little getting into. I wasn’t expecting the dual POV and that one of them was going to be from the POV of the disabled girl who gets assaulted. I also was expecting the assault to be… more. It was bad, but I had envisioned something much more violent.
In this book Emily and Lucas are atoning for what they didn’t do. Both of them failed to act when they saw a classmate of theirs being assaulted. The classmate is disabled, but this isn’t just a story about disabled people getting assaulted, it’s about what it’s like to fail to act when you SHOULD. Both Emily and Lucas know that they should have done something, but that they didn’t. As punishment they both are forced into doing community service at a center for disabled people. They work with a group of disabled adults who are learning who to form relationships, date and act appropriately in society.
I think the best thing about this book was how Emily and Lucas both also learned from the class. Because the class was about dating, and Emily had never really dated much, she found herself relating to the struggles of the students in the class and ultimately felt that she wasn’t any different and that they weren’t any different from her. That they were all just people who struggle with making connections.
This book also focuses on how difficult friendships can be to maintain. Both Belinda, the disabled girl who was assaulted, and Emily struggle with their friendships and relationships. They both don’t know how to react to certain people and have trouble connecting at times. Lucas, a popular football player at a school were football players are gods, has to come to terms with the fact that sometimes the people we think are our friends really aren’t.
And when the shocking truth of what really happened the night Belinda was assaulted comes out eventually… wow. It’s just mind blowing what people who think that they’re better than others and privileged because of something stupid like winning a football game will do… It’s just something that’s been explored a lot lately and I think it’s really important to keep looking at.
This book is super important and I hope that others will give it a chance! Esp if you enjoyed McGovern’s first book, you’ll probably like this one even more!
When I first heard about A Step Towards Falling, it was at the Harper Frenzy event I went to back in August. The presenter opened by stating “What if you saw something horrible, and did nothing about it?” and that really is the large message that is presented in this novel.
Lucas and Emily see their classmate who has a developmental disability get abused at a football game, and neither of them make any attempts to stop the cruelty. Because of their failed actions, they are forced to volunteer at a class for people with developmental disabilities, but teaching them about relationships. I really enjoyed this novel, but in presentation and form. I liked that we are given Emily and Belinda’s points of view on the event itself and the aftermath, and I like McGovern’s approach on the subject of disability.
There’s not enough YA out there that focuses on disability, and it’s a shame really because it’s a group of people who tend to get ignored. Often I feel like there’s this fear of offending someone or the group in question, but this is a group that is challenging to write about without someone feeling frustrated or offended. I for one commend McGovern, if only because she is providing a voice we don’t often see in YA, and one that needs to be there and understood. We see people with disabilities every day of our lives, and yet in some many cases we don’t actually know how to work with them or even show that we acknowledge them. It’s wrong, and this novel reminded me of that in a lot of ways.
Throughout my high school and university years, I both volunteered and worked in a department for special needs. It’s a difficult line of work because every person is different, and they cannot always be responded to in the same way. I really liked how McGovern shows this in the novel with the characters, especially Belinda and her family. After the incident her family tries so hard to shelter her, make her feel like she can’t belong because it’s unsafe, and yet you can see how much Belinda wants to be a part of the world. I also love that she wasn’t given everything she wanted either, because it’s not always possible. There’s one bit in the story that reminded me of my years of working with special needs and it’s where they are acting out a scene and one of the students attempts emotional manipulation on her partner, and Mary the council tries to get the group to understand why that’s not an acceptable response or practice.
I also loved Belinda’s love of Colin Firth and wanting a Colin Firth of her own. I also love that she gets one, though I adore that they have some actual trial and tribulation to go through. I really wanted to smack Chet throughout the novel, if only because there’s that part of me that has worked with people with disabilities my whole life and me screaming “YOU DON’T DO THAT. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU.”
Overall, I loved the message and the story in A Step Towards Falling. The reveal of Belinda’s assault is one of the most devastating parts of the novel — you feel angry for her, because at the end of the day she didn’t deserve what she got. While the novel had some slow moments for me, I appreciated the honesty in both the character portrayal and the message that McGovern was trying to get out there. While I have yet to read <I>Say What You Will</I>, I appreciate that there are writers like Cammie McGovern trying to get the voices of those with disabilities out there in mainstream YA.