Sometimes one mistake can change everything.
Emily doesn’t know why she froze. Or why Lucas did too. Afterward, she thought of different ways to rationalize it. But the truth is, they could have helped Belinda, and they didn’t. It’s a mistake they’ll both have to live with.
Sometimes doing nothing is the only way to cope.
Belinda doesn’t want to talk about what happened. Because when she does, it feels like it’s happening all over again.
Sometimes good can come from bad.
Emily and Lucas’s punishment is community service at a center for people with disabilities. People like Belinda. Soon they feel like maybe they’re starting to make a real difference. Like they would be able to do the right thing if they could do that night all over again. Like they could help not only those at the center but also each other.
But when Belinda returns to school, Emily and Lucas have to figure out if they can do anything that will actually help the one person they hurt most.
I read Cammie McGovern’s debut, Say What You Will, two years ago and highly enjoyed the way she writes characters with disabilities. These types of YA novels come few and far among the dystopian and cute-sy contemporaries, so it’s always refreshing to read about a story that probes deeper into the lesser-explored notions of society and human nature. Although her latest, A Step Toward Falling, isn’t as hard-hitting as her debut, I still adored A Step Toward Falling and think it’s influential in ways other YA stories can’t replicate.
TWO HONEST PERSPECTIVES
Unlike her previous work, A Step Toward Falling is told from two girls: Emily, the one who witnesses the incident, and Belinda, the one involved in the incident and has a disability. I think McGovern did an outstanding job with these two narratives because not only do we receive insight on what it’s like to feel like an outsider and to be treated differently from Belinda’s perspective, but we also get the perspective of Emily who is riddled with guilt for not taking action.
One girl may be disabled (McGovern doesn’t reveal what exactly is Belinda’s disability, which is precisely the point), but we learn that Belinda is not so different from Emily. McGovern doesn’t make Emily a cliché popular girl to set a contrast; in fact, McGovern focuses on the normality two girls who want to have friends and not be isolated all the time. My heart went out for Belinda, but also Emily.
Emily is hard to like in the beginning because she’s flawed and at fault for what happened to Belinda. She’s judgmental and only sees the first layer of people. Nonetheless, her character growth is astounding and lovely to witness.
I admit, some parts of the story felt a little preachy, but I received the messages McGovern wanted to convey loud and clear. I’m glad she includes these important themes in A Step Toward Falling because they are often neglected before it’s too late, especially among teens. My outlook on treating people has changed for the better, thanks to McGovern’s moving story.
PERFECT AMOUNT OF ROMANCE
There is a slight romance in the story for both Emily and Belinda (not a love triangle), and I think in this case, it’s an important tidbit. Romance is a huge part of high school and contrary to belief, people with disabilities seek love too. McGovern covered this aspect with respect; Emily’s romance is subtle and just right for the story.
PUT THIS ONE YOUR TO-READ LIST!
A Step Toward Falling is in one word, important. I really do hope more readers pick this book up because seriously, it will change your outlook on society. Through the realistic perspectives of Emily and Belinda, McGovern relays the significant themes that teens need to be aware of. A Step Toward Falling will undoubtedly stay with me for a long time.