A friend recommended Falling Under by Gwen Hayes to me as being “a better Twilight.” This, while good, is not the most promising or enthusiastic endorsement. But I decided to read it because . . . well, because I was on spring break and needed to take a break from spring break. I did not read the back cover before reading, so I went into this book not knowing anything about the plot.
Falling Under captivated me from the beginning, which isn’t something I can say about every book I love. From the very first page, we’re exposed to Theia’s extremely compelling voice. We learn that Theia is carefully protected by her father . . . and that she recently saw a burning man hurtling out of the sky, which sets in motion her haunting dreams. Falling Under is dark fantasy, and it is utterly terrifying: the underworld from which Haden comes from isn’t sugarcoated or watered down for us. There are terrible, nightmarish scenes—kind of like a super twisted, macabre Alice in Wonderland–and I’m not even talking about the dream sequences.
As for Haden—he’s dangerous and inhuman, but he’s so seductive that we can’t really blame Theia for being captivated. Underneath Haden’s charm, we see his ruthlessness in the way that he attempts to sever the bond between him and Theia. His cruelty is sharp and uncomfortable, but he is a lure. I also enjoyed the alternating points of view that come at the end, which really helped in revealing and explaining Haden’s character.
The other thing I really loved about the book was how excited I was to read about ALL the characters and the secondary relationships: Donny and Gabe, Amelia and Varnie, and even Theia’s father and mother. Each character is very distinctive and individual, and I especially love Theia’s best friends, Donny and Amelia.
So why did my friend tell me Falling Under is a better Twilight? Probably the biggest similarity I can see is that Theia is willing to sacrifice everything for Haden, and they’re both intensely drawn to one another. Theia’s a fighter, and she’s not blinded by her attraction to Haden. Their coming together makes sense, given their histories. The relationship isn’t tame or played down either—Falling Under is one of the few YA books I’ve read to really approach racy.
For the first book in a series, Falling Under is incredibly well-developed. The conclusion of the first book is satisfying, but it left me hungry for more because it seems Theia and Haden have only gotten a temporary reprieve.
Lee likes all things spy, smelling books, and is almost always craving a cheeseburger. She tweets from @lkyim about reading books NOT assigned for class. Also she likes Greek mythology. And dogs.