The story opens with her childhood friend Leo having just left on the ferry to the mainland where he is traveling to go to school in New York. Because of an argument, Kaelyn never said goodbye to Leo. After losing Leo to another girl, Kaelyn resolves to try to reach out to people,and to be a new person, so that when he comes home she can tell him how she really feels about him. She decides to keep a journal and it is through this journal that we experience the events of the raging epidemic that sweeps across the island, changing her life forever.
The epidemic begins when the father of her best friend, Rachel, becomes ill and dies. Soon Rachel and then others in the community succumb to the illness. Schools close, the hospital is filled, and the island is quarantined. There aren't enough people to run the businesses or maintain basic facilities like hydro and water. With the number of infected and dying increasing daily, Kaelyn's father and other health care workers struggle to find a treatment for the deadly virus.
The story is told in the voice of Kaelyn who develops from a quiet, introspective teen who observes and writes about coyotes and other wildlife, to a maturing, responsible young woman who tries to help those around her, even those who have tried to harm her and her family. For example, when Tessa and Kaelyn discover that Quentin, one of the vigilantes on the island is desperately sick, Kaelyn tells Tessa that despite what he's done, they need to take him to the hospital. The coming of age of Kaelyn is wonderful to experience.
We see Kaelyn struggle to cope with the loss of so many people around her. She must find a reason to go on when there doesn't seem to be one. She has to discover what makes life worth living.
"...We're on a cliff, all of us, and surviving isn't about who's the best or the brightest. It's about holding on as long as we can and trying, and failing, and trying again until we've inched a little closer to getting through this."
Layered over the drama of the epidemic is Kaelyn's developing romantic interest in a new guy, Gav, and her new friendship with Tessa, a girl whose actions Kaelyn comes to realizes she has misunderstood.
The Way We Fall is the first book in the Fallen World trilogy. This book was well written and engaging; its short chapters make it fast paced with a layered storyline. However, I found the overall tone of the book to be somewhat depressing and bleak, despite the hopeful ending. Although the end of the book leads the reader to feel that things are looking up, we don't know for sure whether the mainland has experienced any of the epidemic. We don't know how many of the islanders are left and whether the epidemic is truly over. I also felt that too many of the main characters were killed off in the novel.
While reading The Way We Fall, I struggled with the fact that the outside world seems to have just abandoned the community until the very end. No medical professionals were allowed onto the island which I found profoundly puzzling. And although there was a hint at the development of a vaccine, this aspect of the storyline wasn't pursued. The military came and then abandoned the islanders. Kaelyn's father seemed to be the only medical personnel working on the disease and yet never became ill. Despite being a courageous man to risk his life and his family for the sake of the community, in the end he was portrayed as a man afraid to take risks. This disappointing development was not in fitting with most medical researchers during serious outbreak; many risk their lives especially when it is an all or nothing game.
When I read the book I wasn't aware that this was part of a trilogy, so I am eager to read the second book. I am eager to find more out about Leo and whether Kaelyn will continue to develop her relationship with Gav.
The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe
New York: Hyperion 2012