March 6, 2014

Review: The Edge of Falling by Rebecca Serle

The Edge of Falling
Author: Rebecca Serle
Release Date: March 18th, 2014
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Page Count: 304
Source: eARC from Edelweiss
(I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest 
review. No favors were exchanged, my opinions are my own.) 
First Reaction: O.O *cries*
Growing up in privileged, Manhattan social circles, Caggie’s life should be perfect, and it almost was until the day that her younger sister drowned when Caggie was supposed to be watching her. Stricken by grief, Caggie pulls away from her friends and family, only to have everyone misinterpret a crucial moment when she supposedly saves a fellow classmate from suicide. Now she’s famous for something she didn’t do and everyone lauds her as a hero. But inside she still blames herself for the death of her sister and continues to pull away from everything in her life, best friend and perfect boyfriend included. Then Caggie meets Astor, the new boy at school, about whom rumours are swirling and known facts are few. In Astor she finds someone who just might understand her pain, because he has an inner pain of his own. But the more Caggie pulls away from her former life to be with Astor, the more she realizes that his pain might be darker, and deeper, than anything she’s ever felt. His pain might be enough to end his life… and Caggie’s as well.

[Summary Source: Goodreads]

After Caggie's little sister drowns in their Hampton's house pool on her watch, Caggie is forever changed. She is unable to settle back into her her old life with her friends and pretend everything is as it was before. And she is definitely unable to get over the death of her sister - especially since still blames herself. Then Astor shows up at school. Astor, a boy full of more grief than Caggie can imagine, allows Caggie to fall deeper into her pain, and further from the people who can actually help her. The question really is: How far will Caggie let this go before she realizes how close to death she is herself?

Let's break this down:

This is one of those sad, sad books that required many deep breaths to get through.

Caggie, our protagonist, despite being this huge emotional mess, is thought to be a hero. She saved this girl from jumping off a building at an end of the year party just a couple of months after her sister drowns and no one thinks it odd at all. But, the fact is, it's an odd series of events that proves to not have occurred the way everyone thinks. Because this other girl didn't attempt to jump and it wasn't Caggie that did the saving. It was Caggie who needed the saving and still needed the saving even after that moment.

And I'm sure you're all like: GABY. YOU ARE A SPOILING SPOILER WHO SPOILS. But to that I say: No, not really. Because 1. this fact is pretty much implied in the summary of this book and 2. Rebecca Serle writes books that are less about the "Oh gosh, oh gosh, what happens next" and more about the character development, emotion, and life lessons. (This doesn't mean I'm going to tell you the rest of the twists in this book - because there are some - but I think it's pretty clear for the intensity of Caggie's guilt that there's more here.)

Anyway, if I haven't already made it clear, this book is chalk full of depression and angst and acting out. It's a book about a girl who can't cope, pushes away her best friend and boyfriend, and joins up with the one person who won't make her cope - the one guy who will let stand by and watch her spiral. But that's mostly because we find out Astor has his own barrel full of issues that Caggie is not even a little bit prepared to deal with.

Caggie and Astor's toxic relationship consumes a lot of this book and takes a closer look at a relationship that's mutually abusive and yet, somehow, still comforting for those in it (at least, in that moment, not in the grand scheme of things). It's a relationship that Caggie needs so she can actually hit rock bottom and realize how much help she needs. Rebecca Serle does such a wonderful job portraying this sequence of events. Caggie's downfall over the course of the book is so brilliantly developed, it's almost like I'm right there next to her, watching all of these terrible thing happen to a friend of mine. You want so much to shake her and make her stop, but at the same time, you know this is a process she has to go through on her own if she wants to come out the other side in one piece.

Another thing I really like about this book is the supporting cast. Caggie's family, best friend, and boyfriend behave exactly as I felt they should, given the situation. They sometimes make you so mad. Then other times they make you sadder than sad. And then other times you totally cheer for them, despite the fact that you know they're not getting through to Caggie. They're the perfect supporting cast and I love them from page one all the way through the end.

I think what I'm trying to say is: this book is a sadly wonderful depiction of the stages of grief. It's an honest look at what a teen might go through under the burden of tragedy she feels responsible for and it really makes you think. And feel. And maybe even cry because it's really just that good.

The long and short of it?

Plot: My jaw is on the floor because my mouth is full of all the sadness found in this book. The amazing, heart breaking sadness that, for some reason, makes me want to pick up this book once more and read it all over again.
World Building: As a girl who went to high school on the Upper East Side I'd say Rebecca Serle's nailed it.
Character Development: This book has two characters that make bad emotional choices, joining up to make more bad emotional choices. Thankfully, this book doesn't end completely in tears because of the excellent character development - especially Caggie's.
Prose: Y'know those NYC, snobby private school books that have annoying, plain prose? This is not that book. This is definitely not that book.
Would I Recommend This Book?: This is a book for people who love sad, tragic, realistic fiction books. Especially ones that take place in the lives of the Manhattan Elite (we even get to drive out to the Hamptons for the grand finale, so you know it's good). I'd also recommend this book for anyone who appreciates a book that forces you to take a closer look at death and responsibility.

Do you guys love a good NYC tragedy? Does Caggie's struggle appeal to you? Let me know in the comments below!