Source/Format: ARC provided by Harper Collins Canada (thank you!)
Publication date: December 9th 2014 (today!)
Amber Vaughn is a good girl. She sings solos at church, babysits her nephew after school, and spends every Friday night hanging out at her best friend Devon’s house. It’s only when Amber goes exploring in the woods near her home, singing camp songs with the hikers she meets on the Appalachian Trail, that she feels free—and when the bigger world feels just a little bit more in reach.
When Amber learns about an audition at the North Carolina School of the Arts, she decides that her dream—to sing on bigger stages—could also be her ticket to a new life. Devon’s older (and unavailable) brother, Will, helps Amber prepare for her one chance to try out for the hypercompetitive arts school. But the more time Will and Amber spend together, the more complicated their relationship becomes . . . and Amber starts to wonder if she’s such a good girl, after all.
Then, in an afternoon, the bottom drops out of her family’s world—and Amber is faced with an impossible choice between her promise as an artist and the people she loves. Amber always thought she knew what a good girl would do. But between “right” and “wrong,” there’s a whole world of possibilities.
Warning: this book has some sexual situations, drinking, drugs, and cursing. It’s probably rated R – meaning that I would get it parent or teacher approved first if you’re younger than 15.
No Place to Fall is a book I really, really wanted to love. The concept appealed to me as a choir singer, and I love sweet romances. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. Here’s what worked and didn’t work for me:
The characters felt like real high school kids in a real small-town. You get a major slice-of-life feeling with the kids – they go to school, they’re in the library, with their parents, in the cafeteria, etc. You can really tell that Jaye Robin Brown is a teacher, because she really gets how teens act and interact – and how boredom in a small town can result in sex, drugs, and alcohol.
The chemistry between the Amber and Will really works. In fact, I would argue that the romance between them is the best part of the book – Will is a bit dangerous, but he’s also sexy and completely believes in Amber – and their chemistry when they’re singing or playing together is DELICIOUS.
The Southern charm and the way Amber learns to appreciate it. I definitely felt like I was in another world when I first started reading – Brown very quickly establishes the culture of the town and how much they all know about one another. The town kind of reminded me of Friday Night Lights a bit – where everyone knows everyone else, but everyone is also talking to and in everyone else’s business. Amber hates it at first, but I think it’s interesting how much she comes to appreciate it.
The lack of plot because the cast of characters was way too large. This, to me, was the major issue with the book – it just didn’t go anywhere. I felt like I was still at the beginning of the book when I was two-thirds of the way through. The narrative meandered between characters and subplots very quickly, and I never felt like I knew why a certain scene was in there. There was very little structure to hang onto, and as a result, I didn’t feel any urgency or desire to see Amber reach her goals.
The not-very-believable amount of attraction between Amber and every other guy in the book. Holy COW, I know I’m supposed to believe that Amber is gorgeous and talented and all that. But every boy in this book wanted to hook up with her! It’s just not believable to me that almost everyone in her circle of friends was interested in that way.
The descriptions of Amber singing. This is really nitpicky, but I just had to put it out there. For the most part, I liked Brown’s writing, and she has some really good passages, but the way she described how Amber felt singing just felt cliche to me – Amber would “open [her] mouth and the notes fly up” or a “songbird” or “butterflies” would come leaping out of her chest. It just felt like too easy of a metaphor, and I wanted more from the author.
The Final Word:
I wanted to love No Place to Fall so much more than I did. But unfortunately, about two-thirds of the book meandered aimlessly, with more subplot than plot. As a result, I didn’t feel very strongly about too many of the characters, and I felt a very tenuous connection to the MC. That said, once the plot does get moving, it bounces along, and the romance is very satisfying. Overall, not a great book for me, but if you like slice-of-life books, this one might be for you.
NO PLACE TO FALL comes out today! Are you interested in reading it? Do you like books that are kind of episodic and feel like real life? Do you like musical books? Hit the comments and let me know what you think!