Although it often gets mentioned with dystopian or paranormal fiction, there is nothing speculative or sci-fi about this book other than the fact that the source of the disease is mysterious and there are 2 more books to come which may prove to be more dystopian. This is a “what if” story set firmly in reality.
Kaelyn lives on a small island off the coast of Nova Scotia where a strange virus seems to have taken hold of the human population. Soon the entire island is under quarantine, communication with the mainland is down, and people start dying at an alarming rate. Kaelyn’s father, a microbiologist, spends every waking hour at the hospital, her brother is obsessed with finding a way off the island, and Kaelyn is left feeling helpless. Not one to sit around and wait, Kaelyn connects with Tessa, the aloof new girlfriend of her best friend, Leo, and Gav, a cute guy from school dedicated to delivering food safely to the residents. Among chaos and death, Kaelyn finds friendship, hope, maybe even love, but how long can it last?
Kaelyn is an excellent narrator, and I appreciated the glimpses into her past when life was ‘normal’ which helped to shape my perception of her character and her relationships. My favourite character is Tessa, mostly because at the moment she is a bit of a closed book who just happens to have won the heart of Kaelyn’s best friend and crush Leo, who seems to be a stand-up guy (we haven’t met him…yet).
It seems like every book is part of a series (usually a trilogy) these days and there is nothing more frustrating than a first book that does nothing but set the scene and builds up to the real action which takes place in book two. Crewe avoids this nicely and yet leaves the reader with a very effective cliff hanger. The plot, like the virus, moves quickly and while there isn’t a culminating climactic moment there is a series of events- some plausible, some surprising- that make the reader feel like the events in the book COULD happen, which is almost more satisfying than a completely over-the-top fabricated storyline.
The diary/letter format works well. I never really believed that Kaelyn would end up sending the letter to Leo, but by imagining a particular listener it does focus the narrative nicely. Crewe has an intimate, breezy style that compelled me to finish the book in two sittings. Teens, especially slightly more grown-up fans of Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Moon Crash/The Last Survivors series, will eat this one up and clamor for The Lives We Lost, the next book in The Fallen World trilogy, due out next January.
The Way We Fall is available in hard cover from Disney Hyperion.