Updated: Dec 19, 2019
Thanks to Scholastic Books for supplying a free advanced copy of this title for the purposes of review.
As a mysterious and intriguing addition to the collection of today’s young adult fiction, Where She Fell by Kaitlin Ward introduces a somewhat predictable yet startling plot line that gradually captures attention as the story progresses. Diving headfirst into an unknown, intricate labyrinth of a world, Where She Fell manifests the lack of knowledge surrounding the mysteries hidden within the Earth as well as the struggles of acceptance, fear, anxiety, and friendship through the viewpoint of Eliza, a teenage girl whose entire world transformed in a matter of seconds after a single choice.
Eliza was never a rebel. She would much rather be reading about geology and rocks than sneaking out or adventuring. However, with her social anxiety and overall fear of isolation, Eliza is almost fully willing to do whatever her friends ask of her; even rash and clearly stupid decisions like going into an unstable swamp to take a selfie for fifty dollars. However, despite every reasonable part of her screaming to stop, she goes ahead alone, only to have a hole of regrets swallow her underground. Launched into a subterranean world of savage creatures, a community of almost supernatural beings, and a group of individuals surviving together, Eliza finds herself running for her life, but enjoying the adrenaline and excitement.
Despite finally feeling a sense of acceptance, something prods Eliza saying this isn’t where she truly belongs. She has new friends who truly seem to care for her, a potential crush, a mentor who is passionate about geology, and many tasks to get her involved in the underground community. What more would she need? With two conflicting sides to either stay or leave the community that she has grown attached to, Eliza must realize if she will risk to return to the life where she has to worry about her toxic friends, social anxiety, and showing her true personality.
Ward creates so much realism in the character of Eliza as she has her flaws and internal struggles, yet she learns to overcome them or at least acknowledge them. Told through first person viewpoint, readers can truly feel the raw emotions and struggles of Eliza, making her journey into the unknown much more believable and realistic. Eliza deals with social anxiety and despite this being a major reason for Eliza’s views towards her lack of acceptance, Ward does not fully go into detail about how it developed and how much it affected Eliza before the events of the story. Further description and background of her social anxiety may have created more dimensions in Eliza to her development as a character.
Even though the plot itself may lack original methods, it still is enjoyable due to Ward’s ability to highlight what makes the genre so successful. The YA genre has quickly become stale, and yet readers can find rekindled interest with Where She Fell, even though the book never becomes engrossing in its surprising moments. It’s an impressive achievement that highlights how efforts from Ward and others in pure storytelling can overcome an unquestionably clichéd storyline.
With the intriguing hook, I personally was ensnared by the novel to the extent where I finished it within a few hours. Though the conclusion seemed abrupt and overall sudden, the plot ends at a point that leaves the reader wanting more, despite the book’s seemingly stubborn insistence that it remain in familiar, unassuming, predictable territory. Its glorified mistakes are prevalent throughout, but through the development and trials that build Eliza’s character, Where She Fell is a respectable addition to Kaitlin Ward’s other novels Girl in a Bad Place and Bleeding Earth, serving as a well-rounded complement that serves as a disparate part in the mission to revitalize a genre that has quickly become stale and broken.
Score: 7.0 out of 10