Words || Emalee Walker
The paranormal young adult romance genre – that zombified, vampirized post-twilight spectre of the grand 19th century Gothic tradition – has been suffering from overproduction for quite a few years now. Marked by black/navy/maroon covers featuring sexy teens pouting into the middle distance, not quite enough serious academic research has been done on the genre to pinpoint its origins. It’s like suddenly every young adult author woke up one morning after an inspiring ‘dream’ to the grand idea of mixing Romeo & Juliet-style angst with the abject terror of a Mary Shelley creature. Fortunately for them, fantasy fans all have to go through an angsty teen stage at some point, so the genre gets away with making some serious bank. Inevitably though, with about four paranormal young adult romance’s (PYAR) being published every minute, pesky creative virtues like originality and inspiration are often left in the dust. One such victim (or perpetrator?) of this modern day decadence movement is Lauren Kate’s Fallen, a PYAR lacking so in so much authenticity and tact that it simply falls – flat.
Fallen follows Luce, as she begins at the reform school Swords & Cross after her last guy died in a fire (because of her?) and is immediately swept up in not one, but two romances: “She’d been at this school what, forty-five minutes? – and her mind was already juggling two different guys”. This is a direct quote from the book, and is one of a few bizarrely self-aware moments in the novel. The remainder of the plot is a feeble mix of unexplained shadows, downright stupid and ‘stalker-ish’ behaviour and a never-ending monologue from Luce about whether she likes sweet, considerate Cam or rude, moody, distant (but oh so hot) Daniel who repeatedly tells her to back off. No prizes for guessing who she picks. Their meetings in Luce’s (unbeknownst to her) previous lives apparently meant there was no need for normal conversation. Ah, young love.
Even with Fallen lacking in plot and character development, I could have forgiven the poor construction and easy routes (the school is next to a cemetery; eerie backdrop, check), if the story had reached a place where the following books in the series could have redeemed Fallen. But it did not. Anything of interest, any questions raised were either not answered at all, half-answered (because a girl could not handle the ‘complicated’ truth). Also, in this alternate reality of angels and reincarnation, girl power does not exist.
The best part is when Luce makes a point of having to actively avoid “dense forests” and “murky water” because of these ‘shadows’.
I would have seriously loved the supernatural elements if it were authentic and researched, but I still don’t understand what the shadows that followed Luce were. Maybe that is the key – confusion to the point of being desperate to understand to keep you intrigued.
It was a little convoluted and contrived, but indulging in the power of love is what everyone will continue to read even if the extraneous details are arduous to get through. This book is different from others of its genre, partly through actual recognition that it is ridiculous that Luce thinks that the world will end if she can’t date Daniel, partly through Kate’s skill in fostering a done-to-death formula in a way which is infinitely more desirable than, say, others … Fallen manipulates a simple love story to explore the sense of greater purpose and achieving greatness which is crucial for Fallen’s audience. It may be ostentatious, but Fallen doesn’t shy away from this and uses it as a testament to believe in such a thing as powerful as love and the meaning behind otherwise isolating personal obstacles.