Monday, December 20, 2010

Fall for Anything by Courtney Summers

Eddie's dad took his life -- jumped off a building and died.

He left no note. No reason. No explanation.

This doesn't work for Eddie, and she's made it her mission to get to the bottom of this. To solve it, to come to terms with her grief and the loss. To understand what would possess her father, an artist who experienced brief but intense popularity, to jump off a building and end it all.

Enter Culler Evans: the last student her father ever took on. Another person struggling to come to terms with the loss. When Eddie gives Culler the last remains of her father, a box of photos she collects from his former office space, things change forever between them, between her and her best friend Milo, between her and her father, and between her and herself.

But Culler's not the person Eddie thinks he is. And maybe he's just what she needs.

Fall For Anything is Courtney's first foray outside the mean girl world, though Eddie is anything but untroubled. She's grief stricken, lost, and searching for answers to questions that may not have any. Best friend Milo wants to comfort her and help her through it, but he can't. He himself keeps a secret from Eddie: he remembers the day her father died picture perfect, unlike her, and he won't share it with her.

Although this book that focuses on grief, the true story is in the character development and the relationships that build among these perfectly flawed people. While we know Eddie is sad, there are so many more layers to her. With both Milo and Culler, she finds strong male companionship. She's both dependent and completely independent, as well as weak and strong. She loves them and lusts for them but rejects them, too. Eddie craves connection to her world but repels it at the same time.

Milo is the true constant in Eddie's life, despite how she treats him on more than one occasion. He's the kind of guy girls want in their life but the kind that always get treated like dirt. The ones we misjudge. The ones we as readers can't help but love a little bit (or a lot). Through the story, we see him lose his best friend in more than one way and our hearts ache for him.

Culler is the catalyst who moves the plot and characters forward. He himself is both lost and not lost as he leads Eddie on a search through the last photographs her father took, a journey meant to help both of them reconcile their grief and understand why her father did what he did. Culler is a photographer, and his method of coping and understanding is by processing through his camera lens. On their trip, he takes photos to capture thoughts and moments, many which include Eddie. These intimate exposures ultimately guide her to answers about who she is, and through this, she can construct the answers she needs about her father.

Courtney's writing is sparse and so much happens between the lines that you must slow down to pick up what she does. There are incredible parallels between the loss Eddie experiences with her father's suicide, the experience she has in her relationship with Culler, and the relationship she has with the photos Culler uses to "process" the loss of her father. It comes full circle. Subtle hints also suggest Eddie isn't really interested in a romance with either Milo or Culler, despite the overt fantasies she has about them. Instead, she desires a different kind of affection: she wants to be loved and cared for because she's a good and valuable person, something more important to her at this juncture than a traditional romantic relationship. It's part of her grieving process, and it helps us understand her that much more. A couple of reviews -- professional ones -- seem to have overlooked the precision and weight of each word in the story, shortchanging the role the writing itself plays as a character.

My one criticism is fairly minor, and it stuck out more on a second read. Eddie repeatedly discusses how she doesn't understand art and isn't really interested in it, either. But on more than one occasion, she seems quite knowledgeable on the topic, engaging in dialog about light exposure and photographic techniques. I didn't know Eddie well enough in this realm to tell if she was lying or if she was just that insecure (though I bet the latter).

The situations Eddie finds herself in are unrealistic, but because the boundaries in this story are pushed so far, they are completely believable. As a reader, you feel as exposed and vulnerable as the characters, smirking with Eddie one minute and wiping your eyes with your sleeve the next. You want to shake her to tell her she's making mistakes but at the same time, you want to sit back and let them happen. Despite the build up and execution of several plot twists, the strength in this book comes in its moments of complete restraint.

Fall for Anything is unapologetic. Hand this to readers looking for edgy, thought-provoking, raw reads. Although there will be little doubt on appeal to readers and fans of Courtney's prior works, this is the book that I think will really make her a bigger name and staple in the YA world, especially to those who may have too easily written her off as the person who writes about mean girls. It's brutal and honest . . . but don't go in expecting an answer to anything here.

You need to find the same thing Eddie did.

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If you're intrigued, you still have time to enter to win one of three copies I'm giving away right here. I'll pull winners on Wednesday morning. Oh, and if that weren't enough, Courtney's got a short story told from Milo's perspective available, too. It's set prior to the events of Fall for Anything and there are no spoilers. Enjoy it here.

4 comments:

  1. But there is a difference about knowing about "art" and knowing about technique. Techniqure denotes technical ability, something far more tangible, while "art" is more about motivation and compesition. I can see where a person wouldn't know much about one but a bit more about the other.

    I thank you for pushing me to read this one sooner than later, it was a phenomenal read in both plot and character.

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  2. @Michelle: You're right. There is. For me, though, it was still a little too much knowledge about either to buy it. She never felt interested enough for me to care enough about technique or the "art."

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  3. Just finished reading this a few hours ago. Broke my heart into a million pieces, in the good way that makes you appreciate what it is to really *feel*... I have a feeling this is one that's going to take me a while to shake. Thanks for the loan!

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  4. @Andrea: I HOPE YOU AREN'T LYING and I know you aren't. I am so glad you read it and loved it and it broke your heart.

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