Monday, September 20, 2010

Falling In

Falling InFalling In Frances O'Roark Dowell

You know her, of course. Isabelle Bean is the girl who sits in the back corner of the classroom near the pencil sharpener. She isn't invisible, exactly, but she might as well be. She hardly ever speaks unless spoken to (and then only in riddles), never makes eye contact, has bangs that hang down almost to her nose so even if somebody wanted to look her straight in the eye, they couldn't.

It goes without saying that very few people want to look Isabelle Bean straight in the eye.

It's not that she smells bad. She doesn't. She takes a bath every night. And it's not that she's dumb, although it's true she has a bad habit of not doing her homework except when she really feels like it, which is almost never.

And it's not that Isabelle Bean is a bully. She's never beat anyone up or even made the smallest threat. No one is physically scard of her, except for a few of the very nice girls in Mrs. Sharpe's class, girls whose hair smells like apple blossoms and whose mothers still read them bedtime stories. These are the girls who sharpen their pencils at home so they never have to walk near Isabelle's desk.

Isabelle is pretty sure she's a changeling. It's the only explanation. Then, one day at school, she falls into another world. But on the day she falls in, she's wearing bright red lace up boots. So, the children who find her think she's a witch, the same witch that goes from village to village eating children. The witch has a schedule, so when it's their village's season, they run to another village and set up a camp to wait it out. Isabelle goes off to find the witch, because that sounds more exciting. Of course, what she finds is a healer woman who lives alone in the woods, who's had stories made up about her...

This one didn't really do it for me, which is sad. It has things I like--great writing, a narrartor that frequently addresses the reader, and a fairy tale feel. But over all the plot was kinda... eh. It touches however, on some really dark things and I think it would have worked better if Dowell hadn't just skated around and over these very dark possibilities and hints and instead aged up the book to YA and tackled them full force-- the reason why the witch is supposedly seeking revenge, what actually happens at a children's camp, and the ramifications of multiple villages living in fear of having their children stolen. In order to keep the book solidly middle grade, she finds these bruises and points them out, but doesn't really poke at them, and it would have been much more interesting if she had.

Book Provided by... my local library

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