The Girl Who Fell by Shannon M. Parker
Summary: Zephyr is focused. Focused on leading her team to the field hockey state championship and leaving her small town for 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…terrifying? 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.
This story begins with a snippet of the end – the dark place where Zephyr’s relationship with handsome, brooding hockey star Alec will lead. And then we go back and see how it all started. That disturbing prologue is a necessary and brilliant touch, as it primes readers to see the oh-so-small warning signs that the relationship is not the paradise it seems. And that, of course, is the point: an abusive relationship often looks like any other in the beginning, and Zephyr, a strong-willed field hockey player who dreams of attending Boston College, gets swept up in the romance. Her friends grow concerned when Zephyr’s relationship with Alec isolates her from them, and her own insecurities about her talents and her father’s abandonment of her push her to see Alec as the only one who understands. Alec’s manipulations pull her in ever more deeply, until he goes so far that Zephyr can’t explain his behavior away anymore. But Alec, of course, can’t let go, and his obsession crosses into physical abuse.
This story is honestly painful, and painfully honest. It’s riveting stuff – I read the last third of the book with my heart in my throat, pulling for Zephyr to get out of the pit of abuse. Zephyr is no weakling, and this book is a powerful statement about the many forces in our society that limit girls’ choices. (An early scene in which Zephyr chooses not to eat even though she’s starving, because Alec isn’t hungry, made my stomach clench with its verisimilitude.) It’s easy to see, through this story, how anyone, no matter how strong-willed, could end up drawn into an abusive relationship. Alec is all the more frightening because of how fully realized he is as a character; he believes that he is working for Zephyr’s good when he’s “teaching her a lesson”.
An important book that will launch many discussions about abuse, consent, and female empowerment. Don’t miss it.
THE GIRL WHO FELL is out now.