Google+ YA Romantics: Just Finished Reading … Tumble & Fall by Alexandra Coutts

Monday, September 9, 2013

Just Finished Reading … Tumble & Fall by Alexandra Coutts

Review of Tumble & Fall
by Alexandra Coutts
To be published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux BYR
on September 17, 2013

Source: ARC distribution at BEA

Connect with the author: website : Twitter.





Summary (from Goodreads:) The world is living in the shadow of oncoming disaster. An asteroid is set to strike the earth in just one week’s time; catastrophe is unavoidable. The question isn’t how to save the world—the question is, what to do with the time that's left? Against this stark backdrop, three island teens wrestle with intertwining stories of love, friendship and family—all with the ultimate stakes at hand. 

My take:  "If the sky we look upon should ever tumble and fall, or the mountain should crumble to the sea…" I never thought of Stand By Me by Ben E. King as a pre-apocalyptic song, but now that I've read Tumble & Fall -- and realize that the book's title was inspired by the song -- I am a) unable to get the song out of my head and b) seeing that song in a whole new light and c) glad I read this book, as I'd been worried that it would be too depressing for me. Or too sci-fi. Or both.

Like the song, Tumble & Fall is a book about love and friendship and hope and faith. Yes, an asteroid is on target to strike and destroy the world. And yes, the best scientific minds in the world are probably on the case. But this book isn't about that. It's about three ordinary teens and what they are doing in those last few days before impact. Sienna has just been released from rehab, Zan is still mourning the death of her boyfriend Leo, and Caden is struggling with his alcoholic mom and wondering about his absentee dad.

As the asteroid speeds toward earth, these three characters have unfinished business to attend to, things that they need to take care of, or things that they get drawn into. Sienna's story had to do with love as she struggles with the news that her widowed dad wants to remarry and deals with her growing feelings for a guy. Zan's story has the most urgency: she discovers something about her dead boyfriend that she needs to investigate. And Caden's story is surreal-slash-wacky, involving parental abduction. And a hooker.

One of the things I liked about the book was that the characters' actions and choices felt very authentic. The concerns and preoccupations of these three teens are set against the conflicting agendas and expectations of their parents. The adults, understandably, want to spend time with their kids as the world comes to an end, even if this means forcibly -- I laughed out loud when one character got grounded. In contrast, the kids want to make the most out of every moment they have left, and often that means escaping their parents. I also liked the writing, which was evocative and lyrical without overdoing it.

The book's structure and narration took me a while to get used to.  I've never been a fan of the technique of telling seemingly unconnected stories that converge at the end. The book also uses the third person present, an unusual choice for YA, and a tense that can come off like a voice-over. And yet, think these two narrative choices actually worked for this kind of story. The "interconnected narratives" technique shows the web of relationships that we all exist within, something we tend to realize only at momentous occasions, like funerals and weddings and meteors speeding toward us. Once I got used to the third person present, I decided that it gave the story a nice sense of immediacy. I wouldn't want to read many books in this tense, but it worked for me in a book about the end of the world.

With its multiple points of view, huge cast of named characters (I stopped counting when I hit forty) and distinctly philosophical bent, I'd call Tumble & Fall an intellectual story more than an emotional one. While I can't say I connected deeply to each of the POV characters, I did connect to the story as a whole.

I'll be interviewing Alexandra Coutts on the blog this Wednesday -- stop by and see what she has to say about meteors, bucket lists, and playwriting, and enter to win a finished copy of Tumble & Fall.

26 comments:

  1. I like your point about the kids vs the adults and their motivations and desires as the world speeds to an end. I hadn't thought of that. Mostly I was disappointed that I didn't have a more emotional connection-I was so excited about a big romantic love story based on the cover but I didn't get nearly as absorbed as I had expected.

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    1. I do agree that the (gorgeous!) cover leads you to believe it is a love story about two people, when in fact there are three separate plot lines. I always find in multi-POV YA that I'm never quite as connected to the characters. But in this kind of a story, it worked for me.

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  2. I've been curious about this book because I've been seeing it all over the place. It sounds pretty good! And I like books that feel authentic. Great review :)

    Janina @ Synchronized Reading

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  3. So excited to read your review. I think I'm going to like this book VERY much. Nice review.

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  4. I'm glad that you liked this!! I am reading it soon. (I think I have three books I need to read first)

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  5. I'm glad to find someone else who enjoyed it. I had my doubts going into it, but ended up pleasantly surprised.

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  6. Another great additon to my tbr pile.

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  7. Wow, over 40 characters? I was really excited to read this but have been wearing of the reviews. Hopefully I can check it out someday.

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    1. Not major characters, but characters with names. As a reader, I try to remember every character, and if a character isn't going to play a big role, I'd kind of rather they be "kid with guitar" or something...

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  8. I'm glad to see your take on this one, as I've read several less positive reviews. I'm very nervous about a book with so many characters, and three separate main voices that don't converge until later in the story. However, I like that this story read as authentic to you, and I really enjoyed your point about how parents vs. teens might approach the end of the world. I can definitely understand that difference. Thoughtful review, Jen.

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    1. It was different in both structure and approach, and I appreciated that.
      As for the characters, since there are three separate plot lines, I guess 10-12 named characters per plot line isn't outrageous, but it was lot of people for me to keep straight!

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  9. I really like your take on this book even though I didn't enjoy it so much myself. I just couldn't connect to the characters the way I was hoping I would.

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  10. You know I didn't like it as much as you but I did love the authors writing style so I will be picking up whatever she writes next.

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  11. I had more mixed feelings about this one, but I think you're right about the main characters' actions vs. their parents' expectations. I'm glad hyou enjoyed it!

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

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  12. This book took a while to get into, but even after figuring out who was who and what was their story, I never connected with anyone, so sadly this was a dnf for me. Though I loved how you reviewed it, it made me wish I would have continued this book. Lovely review, Jen :)

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  13. I'm glad you enjoyed this. I had to DNF it about a 1/4 in, but not because I thought it was terrible. I just had no feeling for the characters,and that's a big thing to me. I still curious to how it all turned out, though. Ugh, maybe I should pick it up again.

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  14. I'm glad to hear you enjoyed this, even if it was more of an intellectual experience than an emotional one. I've seen wildly varied reviews for this, and it's nice to get a mostly positive perspective. Lovely review, looking forward to meeting Alexandra on your blog! :-)

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  15. 40 characters! Holy crap, that's a huge cast. Ok, first off, I LOVE this cover. One of the prettiest I have seen in a while. Unfortunately, I just don't usually do 'end of the world due to a cataclysmic event' reads OR movies. They depress me too much. I like HEA's, and rarely do ALL the people I want to see make it out, you know, make it out. And when they do, I'm usually just a total wreck the whole way through, biting my nails wondering if that's going to happen in the end.

    But I do love that the title comes from that old 60's song--that's very cool! I always think of the Stephen King movie Stand By Me when I hear it. Funny that that song, which is a love song, has become synonymous with darker stories:) Great review though, Jen. I'm glad you enjoyed this one:)

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  16. I'm glad that you liked it. I've heard pretty negative reviews so I like hearing your take :) I think it's too many characters for me and while I do love intellectual books sometimes, I kept imagining it would be emotional so that's disappointing. But I loved that you got used to the elements of it. Great review, Jen!

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  17. I've been super curious about this book, mostly because everyone else I know that's read it was not a fan. Glad to know there were things you enjoyed as I'll definitely be reading it at some point.

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  18. Great review! I think the three different POV's would be hard too unless it was done right. I'm planning on reading this at some point, but probably not anytime soon since I have other books that are higher up on my list.

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