Reader vs Reader: The Girl Who Fell

Welcome to Reader vs. Reader (anyone have any wicked name suggestions???).  Two librarians who have read the same book will discuss it critically.  They may agree, agree on certain points, or completely disagree.  RvR will challenge your reading comfort zone and dig deeply into the text to find potential problems or subtle brilliance.  And maybe both.  

In May, Andrea and Pam both read The Girl Who Fell

Reader vs Reader: The Girl Who Fell

His obsession. Her fall.

Zephyr Doyle is focused. Focused on leading her team to the field hockey state championship and attending her dream school, Boston College.

But love has a way of changing things.

Enter the new boy in school: the hockey team’s starting goaltender, Alec. He’s cute, charming, and most important, Alec doesn’t judge Zephyr. He understands her fears and insecurities—he even shares them. Soon, their relationship becomes something bigger than Zephyr, something she can’t control, something she doesn’t want to control.

Zephyr swears it must be love. Because love is powerful, and overwhelming, and…


But love shouldn’t make you abandon your dreams, or push your friends away. And love shouldn’t make you feel guilty—or worse, ashamed.
So when Zephyr finally begins to see Alec for who he really is, she knows it’s time to take back control of her life.

If she waits any longer, it may be too late.

The Quick Reactions:

Pam:  I think there were some decent parts in the book but overall it was like a histrionic throwback to 90s slasher movies but with an EVIL BOYFRIEND instead.                                        Andrea: I hate the ending and the weird horror movie scene, but the highlighting of an abusive relationship is so important. Had the ending been better I would have been a thumbs up. 


Snippet of our conversation (Warning: spoilers everywhere!):

Pam: Did you get the feeling that this is all supposed to be the girl’s fault because she “fell” for the bad boy?

Andrea: I honestly didn’t have that feeling. I think the main character thought that at times, but most abuse victims do

Pam: But at the end, Alec doesn’t face the consequences of what he did.  Zee has to deal with the fallout.  And unfortunately that’s what happens IRL so we’re not changing the narrative about consequences for abusers.

Andrea: I do think he got punished, we just don’t know how since he was a minor.

Pam: I understand that the Boston College thing needed to be in there to show just how powerful Alec’s hold was, but I was super confused about why Zee was going there.   It was all about field hockey but then she would talk about studying marine biology but at the same time had trouble with the Pythagorean Theorem in school?

Andrea: I think there was a lot of details about Zee that we were missing. That’s the problem with the slice of lives, we don’t get to see the before

Pam: You’re right–we didn’t get many details about before Alec life.

Andrea: It’s very true. We’re thrown into the now and Alec is a whirlwind that takes over almost immediately. I do think that the abuse is soooo important though. Most people think of abuse about just physical and I don’t think we talk about the mental/emotional/manipulative abuse enough  just don’t know if this was done quite in the right way? I’m still a bit torn. All the classic signs were there, but we knew so little about pre-Alec Zee that it was hard to understand the changes as much. I saw several reviews on GR that said she seemed just “weak” which I can totally see where they’re coming from because we just don’t see enough of the before

Pam: But at the same time she’s this kick butt field hockey player.  So … which one is it?  Who is she?

Andrea: Details, so many before details missing!

Pam:I also felt uncomfortable with the way that Zee’s sexuality was portrayed as like this horrible addiction that kept her tied to Alec.  I felt like it was this weird sort of shaming that she was so into sex that it kept her trapped …?? IDK how to articulate it exactly.  But it goes back to the falling aspect and the whole fall of woman/Eve thing.

Oh yeah, I think including emotional manipulation was a huge thing.  It felt really over-exaggerated to me but I guess if the author was trying to make a point???

Andrea: See, I didn’t feel the same about the sex? I saw that as a OMG THIS IS MY FIRST TASTE OF SEX and how you fall into how good all those first feel. And his control did fall over it, but I didn’t take it as a shaming thing but as a way to show how controlling he was

Pam: I guess it was more like she shamed herself, which is what society does, and that is part of his manipulation, so.

Andrea: BUT that’s what abusers do! They make you blame yourself. They guilt you and twist you and make it all your fault

Pam: Right.  Maybe what I’m trying to articulate  is that we needed a third voice of reason here, because we’re trapped with two very messed-up individuals.  Someone OUTSIDE of the relationship needed to be like THIS and THIS and THIS is wrong–her friend does that to a degree, but not as much as a I would have liked, I guess.

Andrea: Nods. I can see that, but he isolated her on purpose, so there was no one to be her voice of reason, which again very realistic. So, while I agree I would have like more THIS IS WRONG, I understand why we didn’t get it spelled out.

Pam: What did you think about Gregg?  I hated him.  Mostly because I have had guy (ex) friends like him who feel that you OWE them a relationship. Just b/c you are friends/nice to someone/get them does not mean you are meant for each other.  And I was so skeeved out at the end when he said their wedding would be better.  I was like RUN.  RUN AWAY

Andrea: See, I was okay with Gregg. But I also didn’t read him as you OWE me a relationship. I read him as a hurt teenager who had been in love with his friend for 6 years and was rejected and acting emo

Pam:Mmmm, he totally accused her of friendzoning him, fridged her when she rejected him the first time, and moped about like a poopy pants.

Andrea: I get what you’re saying, but they’re also 17/18. They’re teenagers aka kids and do stupid stuff when they’re emo

Pam: It was probably just more personal for me because it’s happened to me multiple times (when I was younger too) and get called a tease and leading them on blah blah blah.

Andrea:  And see if he had called her a tease or said she was leading him on I’d think differently. I’m still thinking about how Gregg handled it and I can see the friendzoning thing, but I also think being rejected really sucks and being mopey is normal. And then watching her kiss a guy she doesn’t even know 2 seconds later was probably crushing.

Pam: Oh, no doubt about being rejected sucks especially for the new guy she barely knows.  But I think his behavior really set the stage for Alec being able to manipulate her into thinking Gregg was behind everything

Andrea: Oh totally! He acted like a jerk, but I don’t know if that had been 18 y/o me if I wouldn’t have done the same.

Pam:Hmmm.  For me the marriage thing should have been played more as a joke because they are teenagers (not that teenagers can’t get married) but to go from pouty mcpoutface to MARRIAGE was a bit much for me.  Although the wild swings in emotions are also very teen.

Andrea: YES, but also by this time it was after the party where they made up and they were kind of back on good grounds. And part of me took it as half joking/half hopeful that this would be were the future would go

Pam: At least she got to be her own person for a while (I hope) when she went away to college.

Andrea: I think she was. At least she seemed to be. And as jerky as Gregg could be, I do think he allowed her to be her own person. I think this is why I wish we could have seen more before Zee

Pam: I would have liked to see more of pre-book Zee with her dad.  His leaving was crucial to her emotional state and I got the impression she loved him very much because of how hurt she was when he left

Andrea: Agree. I think the book would have been 10x better if we had gotten more of before-Zee. I think it would have hit home how manipulation can take hold of anyone—even very smart people. I do think Zee was a smart, strong girl, we just didn’t get to see it. She was already pretty broken due to her dad leaving

Pam: ^^^^this

Andrea: Also, I really don’t understand why she chose to go the way she did for the ending. It didn’t have to turn physical—the manipulation is pretty damn powerful

Pam: I think it would have been even scarier to continue with the psychological/emotional abuse

Andrea:I think the wall thing? With the article that had SLUT—god that scene was almost perfect. It still showed him as crazy, but showed how fucking manipulative he could be

Pam: I mean the level of detail in planning that … wow. He knows Gregg uses red sharpie.  he steals the pic.  He sneaks into her room …

Andrea: Mmhmm, and tearing the photo of her and Gregg. And even with the dog! Feeding him harmful herbs so she needed him/relied on him. All of that is WAY more scarier that cutting the power and phone lines and what not

Pam: I think when he pulled out his cc to pay for the dog–that was a huge part of making her completely reliant on him

Andrea: Agree! Like this boy totally worked her over good. He made himself seem like a hero, when all along he was the puppet master

I do think the ending is what ruined it for me. I could have forgiven everything else if she hadn’t gone this thriller route.

Pam: It was such a 180 from that slow psychological torture route we were going down.  I don’t think I would have recommended it even without that ending, but it sealed the deal of “no” for me.

Stay tuned next month when we’ll duke it out over I Love I Hate I Miss my Sister by Amélie Sarn. If you have a suggestion for what a future read, please let us know!

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