The time is 1973 and Nixon is in the middle of the scandal of his life, Watergate, just south of the border in the good old USA. A drug called LDS has become big with the younger segment of the population. 15 years old, Joe Beck has just lost his best friend, Brian, who was taken out of class and never seen from. He learns Brian is now on the run with his dad after his mom ended up in the hospital. Using a tape recorder and struggling with the lies adults tell he goes on the hunt to figure out what is going on with his friend and his dad.
Fall in One Day
by Craig Terlson
Publication Date: May 16, 2017
Publisher: Blue Moon Publishers
This wasn’t quite the investigation that I thought it would be from the original blurb but I didn’t mind that. Joe impressed me right off. I enjoyed his narrative and was drawn into his experiences even though I didn’t really know what was going on at first. I liked how his narrative was far from simple yet was easy to read and follow. Plus is was cast through the view of a boy who doesn’t know the adult words for everything. That made his narrative feel totally real to me. Remember this was 1973, not a kid who grew up in the information age that is the twenty first century.
“The Newtons told the weirdest story, how Brian’s dad was possessed and the devil told him to take Brian. They had heard about that happening, where the priest had to go and exercise them. According to them, this involved a lot of shouting, even swearing, and jumping around, which was why they called it exercise. I didn’t bother telling them how dumb that sounded.”
The author used the events, like Watergate and people, such as his brother Karl that surrounded the boy in such a way that it felt like Joe was trying to figure things out while not grasping with an adult insight what is most important. Many times when I read a teenager they make me roll my eyes they are so adult and they make such bungles that its hard to enjoy them as a protagonist who I am supposed to sympathize with… such was not the case with Joe! He focused like a 15 year old experiencing the things that were happening to him (for example he had a problem with trust and his priority lay in keeping the trust of Brian his friend.)
There were such layers to the narrative. For example, a 15 year old has some instincts they sense when things are happening but hate to bring it up with adults who will just poo poo them. We see that Joe is aware of some things like in the very beginning he could tell the adults were lying on tv but his dad brushed him off. The same is true about Brian and so we have confidence to move forward with Joe as our leader in this story even though he is just a kid. In reality most characters portrayed in YA fiction are a tad unrealistic being really what is essentially an early 20 year old even when they say they are 14, 15, or 16.
So the narrative is really strong and to me is the driving force in this story. The book starts slow. There is some essential setup and the way it is done wasn’t bad just that it was all just getting to know Joe with nothing that felt like story. Character building is good but not in a vacuum, I like Joe a lot and him recording what happened to his brother, Karl, was fascinating but now let’s get on with the story…! And what a story it was! I took a leap of faith on this book as I would normally read LSD or anything about drugs and say pass. I don’t like reading about it and am totally turned off in fact.
So what made it good you say:
-So much happened that I thought would happen by the end of the book and yet we were at 63%! i.e. it was unexpected the turn of events with Joe an Brian and how he kept trying to help his friend…
-Karl, his older brother was instrumental in supporting Joe… what a good guy! What a brother!! Many times this kind of loving family member feels fake but not Karl and that was shown so well by the story Joe recorded that we could see was why he trusted his brother.
-Really the world building was so,so good even if only 50ish years ago… there is this one scene where this guy fixing his car kept calls them hippies… it was so funny!
-Mental health issues are so important to understand and need to be taught – this delves into the history of mental health and how they used to treat certain struggles (scary but important!)
-The inclusion of the diary was fascinating and actually pretty important to the narrative in that Joe didn’t totally understand what it all meant but the reader can certainly figure it out from the clues it created. It makes a good discussion for children readers with teachers and parents about drugs. Plus Joe understood enough of it. So smartly done…
-The moments of religious questioning due to the Newton boys were a fascinating inclusion. While I’m not sure that I would have chosen then they were all part of creating the youth that was Joe. And at one point in the plot a visit to the Newton’s church helped Joe to reexamine what he knew.
-The idea of what it means to be family is also explored in both Brian and Joe’s life. I liked the added tension and stress to the story from Joe’s parents.
“The wind that pushed me home had the smallest bit of cold, barely there. Maybe I imagined the chill because the calendar told me it was coming. Fall. It was still a while away, but when it came, man, if we were lucky, it lasted a few weeks, but some years it was a day. No kidding, fall in one day. Last year was like that, an amazing windy day where every leaf was torn off every tree and launched into the air like someone shot it from a cannon. The fall in one day was not always a bad thing. … I didn’t really know why, but my brain filled up with dark thoughts when winter got closer. Stuff died in winter; a lot of old people died in winter. … A long fall meant that those dark thoughts stayed in my head even longer. I wanted winter to begin, just so it could end as soon as possible.”
I loved the end. I loved Joe. I loved his relationships. I loved all the layers.
BOTTOM LINE: A fascinating look at recent history through the eyes of a 15 year old boy. 4-Stars.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
“NetGalley delivers digital galleys, often called advance reading copies, or ARCs, to professional readers and helps promote new and upcoming titles. Professional readers–reviewers, media, journalists, bloggers, librarians, booksellers and educators–can join and use NetGalley at no cost.” Netgalley is a special section of my book discussions where I post reviews of the digital books I read through this service. It’s quite amazing the gems you can find. I’ve yet to regret reading a book, even if I don’t like it…