Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Fall From Grace by Charles Benoit
May 8, 2012; HarperTeen
Grace always has a plan. There’s her plan to get famous, her plan to get rich, and—above all—her plan to have fun.
Sawyer has plenty of plans too. Plans made for him by his mother, his father, his girlfriend. Maybe they aren’t his plans, but they are plans.
When Sawyer meets Grace, he wonders if he should come up with a few plans himself. Plans about what he actually wants to be, plans to speak his own mind for a change, plans to maybe help Grace with a little art theft.
Wait a minute—plans to what? (courtesy of Goodreads)
Fall From Grace goes into the category of books that I appreciate more than I like. The themes of self-discovery and rebellion from expectations are what stand out most from this novel - more than the plot itself. The characters are intriguing but achieve the real feat of all being unlikable. Usually we have a hero, some sidekicks, and some villains. But I don't even like the good guys. But the book comes very close to redeeming itself at the end.
Sawyer is a wuss. He lets his parents and his girlfriend make all his decisions, because he doesn't have the guts to stand up to them. They're not even nice people. They push, they cajole, they manipulate - whatever it takes to get Sawyer to go to the college of their choice, take the classes of their choice, do the activities of their choice. I'm surprised his mother doesn't set out Sawyer's clothes every morning. Perhaps she does and it's not mentioned in the book. I quickly disliked his cardboard passivity. It felt overdone. Are there really 18 year old guys out there completely lacking a backbone? Not just someone who likes to follow rules and obey authority, but who is totally incapable of standing up for himself? There probably are, but I don't like reading about them.
Amazingly, it's taken Sawyer 18 years to figure out that not having any free will is a bad thing. It all starts to change when he meets Grace. She wants to be famous and has decided that the best way to do it is art heist. This makes little sense, but she does have a relatively well thought out explanation for how this will bring her fame (or infamy). She ropes Sawyer into being her sidekick the same way everyone else does - cajoling and manipulation. Only she catches flies with honey rather than the vinegar his parents and girlfriend spew at him.
I enjoyed seeing Sawyer's little rebellions, as stupid as they were. He desperately needed to distance himself from his family and I liked seeing him grow into himself. He came to life around Grace and that was heartening. I also liked how Grace was such an enigmatic character. Is she really a heartless manipulator that I hinted to above or a girl who truly enjoys being with Sawyer and brings him into her game, because she likes him? I can't say for sure which viewpoint of Grace is true. A highlight of this book is how it makes you think and question all your initial opinions of the plot and the characters. Maybe your initial impressions are correct, but maybe there's more going on beneath the surface than you initially noticed.
The ending to Fall From Grace is shocking. It made the book. I will probably (happily) forget this story quickly, but the ending will stick with me for years. It's a choice few authors dare to make and Mr. Benoit did it perfectly.
My recommendation for Fall From Grace is odd. I didn't like this book very much. It was well written and clearly leans toward the literary bent, but the plot wasn't strong enough to draw me in and I hated the characters. However, the ending was fabulous. I'd recommend you read this book just to get to the ending. An odd juxtaposition: this is probably my least favorite book of 2012 thus far, but it has one of the best endings I've read in years. Check it out.