________________ CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 27 . . . . March 16, 2012


The Way We Fall.

Megan Crewe.
White Plains, NY: Disney Hyperion (Distributed in Canada by Hachette Book Group Canada), 2011.
308 pp., trade pbk., $18.50.
ISBN 978-1-4231-4616-2.

Subject Headings:
Virus diseases-Fiction.

Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up.

Review by Jeff Nielsen.

*** /4

Reviewed from Uncorrected Advance Proof.



Most people think the scariest thing is knowing that you're going to die. It's not. It's knowing that you might have to watch every single person you've ever loved - or even liked - waste away while you just stand there.

It has to end sometime, I keep telling myself. And that's true. And some point, there'll be no one left.

And then it won't matter that I survived, because anyone who might have cared will be dead.

The Way We Fall, the new novel by Torontonian Megan Crewe, is out to scare the teenagers of the nation into good hygiene practices. This tale of the outbreak of a highly contagious disease on an island could act as a PSA for the efficacy of hand-washing, sleeve-coughing and good olde-fashioned quarantining!

     In this, her second novel, Crewe has a 16-year-old loner named Kaelyn narrate the story through a series of letters to Leo, an estranged friend. In those letters, Kaelyn tells a harrowing tale of how the contagious and highly lethal disease ravages both the individuals of her unnamed island and the strong community they have built there. As the daughter of the island's leading doctor, Kaelyn sees the disease's progress from very early on. As it lays to waste her friends, family and her community, Kaelyn chooses to fight to stop the disease and all its attendant suffering with some allies from her school, including her rival, Tessa, and a mysterious student named Gav.

     The tale Crewe spins does make for an effective page-turner. Certainly the build-up is a bit draggy by 21st century standards, but once the author puts her cast of characters in more desperate straits, things speed up. Though The Way We Fall is survival literature, as all Canadian Literature is supposed to be, it's not from some post-apocalyptic The Hunger Games world but from a Canada that seems all too real, especially for those who remember the SARS outbreak from earlier this century.

     There are some weakness to Crewe's yarn. The concept that every chapter is a letter to her estranged friend seems less believable as the book progresses. In fact, at times it seems like Crewe has abandoned this technique and has just begun using a more conventional first-person narrative approach. Perhaps having the letters, clearly formatted, as intervals in the narration would have been more effective.

     The other problem, not so uncommon to plot-driven books such as this one, is that the characters will not engage everyone. Many of the characters lack distinct traits and voices; other than being shy our heroine Kaelyn is a bit colourless; her gay brother, Drew, feels like a plot device that got cut down in the final edit; her mother and father seem too saintly; and even the principal human villain, Quentin, never gets in enough page time to feel very menacing.

     Those objections aside, I believe The Way We Fall would hook many teen readers, especially, but not exclusively, female ones. An exciting story line that seems both realistic and entertaining will have strong appeal to a variety of readers.


Jeff Nielsen teaches high school English in Lorette, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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