Why did I pick up No Place to Fall? Besides the fact I am massively behind on my review copies from Edelweiss (damn you, job), the fact it takes place in the area of western North Carolina where I went to college was a big selling factor. It’s even on the cover. I immediately downloaded it for review and then read the synopsis and… Oh. It was a music book. Okay, okay, I can handle this, I thought, but then work intervened and eventually (read: Christmas break) I found myself picking it out among the masses of books on my Kindle and digging in.
No Place to Fall follows Amber (a name I hate, but that’s a long story and nothing against girls named Amber), a young girl from a tiny mountain town who loves to sing. Except her singing is pretty much limited to friends and church because she has crippling stage fright (but question – isn’t performing at church, and doing solos, a lot like being on a stage?). Her dream is to leave her tiny mountain town behind, along with a town full of girls named Amber it seems, for the big city, but for now she lets meeting hikers on the Appalachian Trail suffice. But her life goes into a tail spin as she is drawn into a web of men – two boys moving into town, her gay best friend and his brother that she is attracted to, her cheating father, and her brother-in-law, a man who drew her sister into dealing drugs, addiction, and jail.
Amber is a girl that doesn’t fit in with her surroundings, but the surroundings were one of the problems I had with the book. The book tried so hard to set the place as being North Carolina, with mentions of towns and universities I am familiar with, but at the same time didn’t quite catch the mountains right. Is that weird to say? The author lives in the NC mountains, but the mountains of No Place to Fall felt like an entirely different place out of a fantasy. While I admired the book for other things – its exploration of the realities of being a teen, such as sex and kissing and not knowing about the vagaries of love – there were bits I didn’t connect with just as much.
I don’t really fall in love with books where there are dreams mentioned, dreams pursued, and even dreams gained, only for the dream to be derailed and forgotten by the heroine because of the men in her life. In Amber’s case, the men in her life add together to create massive amounts of resistance between her and her goals as she focuses on them rather than on herself. The men in her life create problems. The men – ahem, I really should be saying teenage boys mainly – are the ones that distract her from her goals, her dreams. The BOYS in her life are the ones who put their feet in the way of allowing her to truly thrive, even though ostensibly they are the ones there pushing her along.
In the end, No Place to Fall suffers because of the supporting cast, complete with requisite bad girl named Amber-o-zia, a cardboard threatening character to Amber’s love interests. By the end of the book I was realizing that this book ends happy, but not for the reader. The last act just serves to throw problems in Amber’s face without reason, even though all she’s done and all her problems don’t even do much. Nobody seems to care, giving her a pat on her back despite her extremely poor decisions. It just fell…
Flat is the worst kind of book, but alas, No Place to Fall landed squarely like a piece of paper drifting through the wind, smacking without a sound on the ground.