Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Fall From Grace by Charles Benoit

Fall From Grace by Charles Benoit
May 8, 2012; HarperTeen


Summary

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)

Review

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.

Rating: 3 / 5

7 comments:

  1. *giggles* well, yes this seems like a odd book, fulkl of contradiction!! But, sometimes it's just not easy to express the whole feelings for a book. I can relate to endings that make up for the rest. I cannot recall, but I know that I once read a book I didn't like so much, but then the ending was so great and this changed my feelings:))

    This book is new to me, but your review made me curious!

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  2. Now I really just want to read this one for the shocking ending! I love been completely surprised and clearly this book does it well:) Sawyer sounds like a frustrating character allowing himself to be so easily manipulated, but I like that things finally start to change at least. That would be enough to keep me reading:) Awesome review Alison!

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  3. Is this the latest from Charles Benoit? Huh. I've been waiting, but I guess I didn't stay up to date on any news about him. I tried reading his YOU novel, and had the same troubles as the ones you mentioned here, and unfortunately didn't make it to the end, but I have vowed to return to it someday. I do think he is a very promising writer, which is why I was looking forward to more from him. Thanks for the fair review. I will approach this one with caution.

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  4. Hmm, I love self discovery books and like it when a character rebels. It's fun to read. Thanks for sharing Alison!

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  5. I like the way you put that--that this is a genre you appreciate more than you like. Sadly, I feel that way about a lot of "issue" books. I love that they're out there and that they probably speak to some of my students but I generally don't like reading them.

    Sounds like an intriguing book but I'm not sure I'd like Sawyer all that much. A person with no backbone usually makes me want to slap them.

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  6. Yeah, I did have similar issues with this book as you did, Alison. Unlike you, I thought the ending was just added on and really didn't do anything for me. *Shrugs*

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  7. Oh no, the dreaded unlikeable characters! I totally get what you are saying. I'd probably appreciate more than enjoy here too.

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