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A Step Toward Falling by Cammie McGovern

A Step Toward Falling

by Cammie McGovern

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NY Times Sunday Book Review, Nov. 6 2015; Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, 69(5) 2016
  KrsWilson | Jun 22, 2017 |
Great book about Emily and Lucas, two students who see something happen but don’t take action against it. As a result, they have to do community service at a learning center for adults with disabilities. ( )
  howifeelaboutbooks | Dec 26, 2016 |
When a disabled girl is attacked under the bleachers at a football game, there were two students who witnessed it, and did not take effective action. As punishment, the school assigns them to do community service at a learning center for the disabled. ( )
  lilibrarian | Oct 13, 2016 |
Review courtesy of Dark Faerie Tales

Quick & Dirty: A thought provoking read.

Opening Sentence: At our first meeting with the director of the Lifelong Learning Center, Lucas doesn’t speak to me once.

The Review:

The story is told from three perspectives: Belinda; the disabled victim of a traumatic experience and Emily and Lucas; the two high school students who witnessed Belinda being assaulted yet did not call for help. Although they did not intend to leave Belinda helpless, neither were brave enough to cry out so in the end Belinda saved herself despite her disabilities.

It was interesting to see how the incident affected all the parties, not just the victim. Both onlookers feel incredibly guilty for not stopping the awful act and come together through their community service, where they interact and help other people with disabilities. Essentially they want to help Belinda but is it too late? It was sad that neither Emily nor Lucas helped Belinda when she needed it the most, but it made me question what I would have done if I was in the same situation? Would I have frozen and been unable to help, or turned a blind eye in the hope that someone else would stop the assault? I really hope not but until you’re in that situation you never know…

I’m surprised at how I almost start to cry saying this. I don’t know why, because the play is over and I don’t need to be nervous anymore. I’m not sad about anything. I’m happy and I’m about to waltz dance with Anthony, but maybe happy is a little like sad because I do start to cry.

The theme of this story is not just creating awareness of those with special needs and making people realise that there’s more to them than speech or hearing impairment; it highlighted how deeply these people feel and they tend to be far more perceptive than we give them credit to be. A Step Toward Falling also explores the issue of stereotypes based on first appearances, when often the first judgment falls short of reality. This is explained by using Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice as an example and I found it interesting to see how the issues in that story are prevalent in this day and age.

“Why would I do that?”
“To freak him out. Mess with his head. Those football guys and their cheerleaders have no capacity to deal with anyone outside their circle.”
Richard rolls his eyes. Even Barry has to say, “The thing is, Candace, sometimes you forget that other people are human beings.”
“Not everyone, Bear. Not everyone.”

In this book there are three main romantic ‘pairings’ and what I liked most was that although each couple is very different, the problems they face are all too similar. Belinda and Anthony both have disabilities but their dilemma of being afraid of commitment is something that Hugh and Richard, the gay couple, also face. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a high school quarterback or the victim of a sexual assault; the problems faced tend to be the same.

What Lucas said in the lobby last night has stuck with me because he’s right: Friendships are complicated. Friends have power. Friends can break your heart.

A Step Toward Falling was based on an intense theme but there was plenty of humour to lighten the read. It’s not something I would have normally picked up but I’m glad I did because the characters in this story will stay with me even after I’ve closed the book.

Notable Scene:

My mom says it’s good I was born now not a long time ago because back then they didn’t know what to do with people like me. I think she means people who believe in romance and love, because I do. [Belinda]

FTC Advisory: HarperTeen provided me with a copy of A Step Toward Falling. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review. ( )
  DarkFaerieTales | May 28, 2016 |
I loved Say What You Will and A Step Toward Falling fulfilled my high expectations after that book. "Sometimes the worst thing you can do is nothing at all" (from the cover) sums up the plot nicely: two high school students, Emily and Lucas, see a special needs student, Belinda, being attacked during a football game, but neither of them takes appropriate action to help her. The school assigns them community service hours at the Lifelong Learning Center, but they both feel that they want to do something for Belinda herself. Emily and Belinda take turns narrating, so the reader sees the incident through two different perspectives, and also gets each character's feelings on high school, relationships, bravery, and justice.


I've also discovered it's possible that I still haven't learned what I'm trying to show other people how to do: to take action in the moment it's most needed. (Emily 74)

"You already know the first thing people notice about you is that you look and act a little different than other people. You can't control that. What you can control is the second thing they notice about you .You can make sure it's something you like about yourself and something other people like about you, too." (Mary to class, 157)

These folks aren't childish; they just haven't lost the enthusiastic attachments I associate with children. (Emily, 177)

I think about the way expectations have shaped us all...But what if the world had no expectations for you? (Emily, 179)

I feel the knot of expectation in my stomach loosen to make room for the story I'll have to tell myself tomorrow and the next day and the day after that when we see each other and talk about everything except this. (Emily, 242)

Expectations are sad and complicated things. (Emily, 248)

"That's how people like us get through high school. We expect to have a much better time when we get out." (Emily to Lucas, 254)

Brave is what you want to feel when you are very scared of something. (Belinda, 256)

But...I keep being scared of the same thing happening. Like if I stand in the light, someone will step out of the dark and do something terrible. (Belinda, 309)

She's demonstrating something I am only just learning myself: Choose carefully the people whose approval you seek. (Emily about Belinda, 350) ( )
  JennyArch | Feb 3, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 006227113X, Hardcover)

Cammie McGovern follows up her breakout young adult debut, Say What You Will, with this powerful and unforgettable novel about learning from your mistakes, and learning to forgive. Told in alternating points of view, A Step Toward Falling is a poignant, hopeful, and altogether stunning work that will appeal to fans of Jennifer Nevin, Robyn Schneider, and Jandy Nelson.

Emily has always been the kind of girl who tries to do the right thing—until one night when she does the worst thing possible. She sees Belinda, a classmate with developmental disabilities, being attacked. Inexplicably, she does nothing at all.

Belinda, however, manages to save herself. When their high school finds out what happened, Emily and Lucas, a football player who was also there that night, are required to perform community service at a center for disabled people. Soon, Lucas and Emily begin to feel like maybe they're starting to make a real difference. Like they would be able to do the right thing if they could do that night all over again. But can they do anything that will actually help the one person they hurt the most?

(retrieved from Amazon Tue, 04 Aug 2015 09:26:00 -0400)

"After failing to come to Belinda's aid while she was being attacked, Emily and another classmate are punished by being forced to work at a community center for people with disabilities, but they are put the ultimate test when Belinda finally returns to school and they must find a way to make amends to her"--… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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