Review: The Edge of Falling by Rebecca Serle
Author: Rebecca Serle
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: March 18, 2014
Format/Source: ARC/From Publisher
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 realises 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. (Cover and synopsis from Goodreads.)
Retelling? Homage? Inspired by?
The Edge of Falling seems to have a lot of references to The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. The two main characters have the same last name, both of those characters have a sibling who died, and Serle just mentions Salinger and The Catcher in the Rye a lot in The Edge of Falling. I read Catcher about 5 or 6 years ago (I’m not sure how I never read it in school), and I didn’t enjoy it. However, in the past few years I’ve grown into much more of a reader, and I know I’d probably see it differently if I read it now. But as it is, I don’t really remember much of Catcher so I’m not sure if The Edge of Falling is simply inspired by Catcher, or if it’s an homage, or if it’s kind of a retelling. I don’t think it affected me too much as to which it was, since I didn’t really remember much about Catcher, and therefore I just judged The Edge of Falling on its own.
There were some really beautiful and poignant lines throughout The Edge of Falling. Serle’s writing definitely feels akin to other YA contemporary writers like John Green and David Levithan when it comes to analyzing the human spirit. And I got a little teary-eyed at one point in the end, which is something I almost never do while reading.
I also liked the character growth within the story. I wouldn’t really say that I liked Caggie, but we do see her grow and mature within the story, and that’s something I usually look for, especially if it’s a character that I’m not absolutely in love with. I completely support characters having flaws, and I think Caggie was written to be a character full of flaws. And I’m not sure if this was intentional, or if it was just because I’m an adult reader and also a mother so maybe I see things a bit differently than other YA readers, but I saw each and every one of her mistakes as what they were–mistakes. I never liked that Astor guy and I cringed while Caggie turned more and more away from her friends and family and schoolwork, and I ultimately felt like I was seeing myself react as if my child was Caggie’s age and doing the same thing.
But, that being said, I think Serle perhaps wrote Caggie that way on purpose. She’s not supposed to be a perfect character. She’s not supposed to be the loveable quirky girl next door–she’s supposed to be a real, complex character who is hurting and feels more guilt than she knows what to do with. And while I didn’t agree with her actions, I could see why she would make certain choices, and I was very glad to see growth in her character.
There were also several things that I just didn’t love about this story. For one thing, I just didn’t like the name Caggie. I don’t understand why it was a nickname for the name Mcalister, and I know names are completely subjective and quite a minor thing, but weird names like that just pull me out of the book and annoy me.
I also never liked Astor. But, like I said above, maybe Serle wrote the characters that way on purpose–so that you wouldn’t like Astor, that you wouldn’t agree with Caggie’s choices and see them as mistakes, but rather so you would just see this portrait of a flawed and complexly realistic character. But I also never really liked Caggie either. Yes, she’s a realistic character and perhaps Serle was meaning to write the characters in this way, but I still just didn’t really like Caggie, although I did like her character growth.
I also felt like this book kind of threw a lot of the New York City Upper East Side cliches at us. In fact, as I was reading this book I found myself thinking, “This reminds me of Gossip Girl,” and “Didn’t that happen in Gossip Girl?” and “Isn’t this a lot like that one scene/person/place in Gossip Girl?” Not that I think this story is really anything like Gossip Girl–they both just seem to show the same kind of life in NYC and while I enjoy reading about that life, I also felt like this book was maybe filling some kind of quota with all its Upper East Side cliches.
I wrote down several beautiful and interesting passages from The Edge of Falling, and here are a few of my favorites*:
*All quotes are from the ARC. They may be different in the finalized version.