I hadn’t had many people in my life who made me feel special. You know what happens after awhile? You start to wonder if you matter.
I mean, really and truly matter.
And the more time that goes by, the harder it is to believe that you do.
Lisa Schroeder has quickly become one the select few authors whose books I love to revisit.
The Day Before, her 2011 novel in verse is one of my all-time favorites reads and I often pull it from the shelf in my office (uh, I just realized that “my” of this book is actually Laura’s—whoops!) and read a couple of passages at random.
Lisa’s books work for me in a way that a lot of contemporary YA novels do not. She talks about families and life and friendship and love in a way that’s universally understandable, regardless of whether you’re 15 or 35 or 55. There’s a thread of goodness that runs through her stories, and each has left me feeling a bit better about the world. None of this is what’s popular and trendy in teen fiction, so her books are a breath of fresh air on the crowded teen fiction shelves.
With that said, I was admittedly sad when I learned that her 2012 young adult novel, Falling for You, wasn’t a verse novel. I love verse, and Lisa’s verse novels are some of my favorites.
However, after reading Falling for You, I’m actually quite happy that Lisa chose to write this novel in traditional prose because it will allow verse-averse readers to try one of her books and perhaps the numerous poems in Falling for You will be a gateway to her four verse novels.
Rae is a teen in a small-ish town in Oregon. She works hard at a flower shop, Full Bloom, where her coworkers and the other people who work at the nearby businesses are as much her family as her actual family—perhaps more. She lives in a challenging home environment where money is always tight and made tighter when her stepfather, whose job loss early in the novel creates further financial pressures and tensions in Rae’s household.
At the same time, Rae quickly becomes involved with Nathan, the new boy at school whose devotion sends off alarms bells for Rae. She quickly realizes that this relationship is too much, too fast and the situation frightens her. Meanwhile, her friend Leo, who’s home schooled and works in his family’s coffee shop near Full Bloom, senses that things are wrong in Rae’s life, and desperately wishes to help her, if only she’ll let him. Leo—whose life has a lot of complications as well—introduces Rae to his hobby of making YouTube videos and his positive outlet seems to subconsciously inspire Rae to take her poetry more seriously.
These events all happen in the form of extended flashbacks, which make up the bulk of Falling for You. In the present, we know that Rae is injured and in an intensive care unit, clinging to life. Interspersed within both are poems written by Rae which are published in the poetry section of her school newspaper. These poems lend further insight into Rae’s real feelings about her family, her boyfriends, friends and job—through these poems we see the real Rae.
I’m not the floor
to be walked on
or the hammer
to be used.
I’m not the choir
to sing your praises
or the commercials
to be ignored.
I’m the baby bird
wanting to fly
and the orchid
starting to bloom.
The overarching them in this surprisingly complex and dark story is the tension between darkness and light.