Friday, January 1, 2010

review: fallen by lauren kate

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Luce sees shadows. At seven, her parents realized something was wrong and eventually sent Luce to therapy. Years later, Luce refused to take her psychiatric medication which caused her parents to send her away to a boarding school where she could see a specialist. Unfortunately, the shadows aren’t her only problem. Luce still can’t explain exactly what happened the night the boy she liked died in a fire. As a result, she’s now under court order to attend a reform school. And that’s when the shadows really start to get bad. There’s also something mysterious about some of her new classmates.

Although Daniel’s last name provides a major clue for those familiar with fallen angel lore, who he is isn’t revealed until the end of chapter eight. In fact, these first eight chapters don’t have much action and primarily serve to establish the characters and give background on Luce. It’s hard to get into a story when you aren’t quite sure what the characters’ motivations are and when the plot develops so slowly; but things do start to pick up as Fallen continues. That fallen angels will soon dominate the plot is nicely hinted at during Miss Sophia’s lecture on Paradise Lost and the best known of the angels who fell. That’s the section that compelled me to keep reading.

Kate effectively uses the reform school setting to believably isolate Luce. However, she still gets trapped by some of the now typical downfalls of the YA genre. Luce is purportedly a good student, but promptly ignores her studies in favor of obsessing over Daniel and hanging out with her other crush, Cam. It’s disappointing in a protagonist, but also understandable given Luce’s age. Luckily, her new sidekick, Penn, is an excellent friend who shows smarts and frequently steers Luce in the right direction.

Generally, I like to let each book stand on its own. In reading Fallen, I couldn’t help but constantly be distracted by how similar it was to Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush, Hush. So many of the same elements appear in each book that I would worry about accusations of plagiarism if they hadn’t been released two months apart. There are things in Fallen (such as character development and plausibility) that I think were better done, yet Hush, Hush both begins and ends better. Fallen takes far too long setting up the story, then makes it clear at the end that one must read the sequel to find out what happens to Luce.
ARC Review
Review copy provided by the publisher, Delacorte Press.

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