If you want a light and fluffy, easy-to-read, and honestly rather simplistic YA romance, this is definitely an option. If, however, you want more realistic and organic character development, with protagonists who aren’t overidealized, shallow, underdeveloped, or cliche-feeling, then you might be a bit frustrated with The Upside of Falling. It isn’t a terrible book but the writing lacks nuance, skews very young, and you will never believe these could actually be real-life people.
Story: Becca Hart’s parents’ divorce was hard on her – her father just left and never contacted them again. Her mother lost herself in a baking and opened a store. Becca, meanwhile, loses herself in romance books while not believing there can actually be true love in the world. When her former best friend (who dumped her when that friend became a popular cheerleader) says some mean things about Becca never having been in love and not knowing what it means, Becca spontaneously lies and says she has a boyfriend. In comes the most popular guy in the school, Brett Wells, who holds up Becca’s lie mysteriously by claiming to be her ‘hidden’ boyfriend. Can these two make a fake romance work?
Right off the bad, I was thrown off by the premise. Becca lies to a classmate about having a boyfriend and suddenly popular football hunk steps in, puts his arm around her, and claims to be her boyfriend to help her out. How would he even know she was lying, they had never talked before (it’d be rather embarrassing if he was caught out if Becca actually did have one)? And his motivation for doing so doesn’t feel very realistic either – he wants to get his parents off his back about dating. Because honestly, he might as well gone for the cheerleader girl, dated her casually, and made his ambitious parents even happier. There was zero reason established why he would be interested in Becca.
As well, the whole scenario of Becca being turned off of real love but being obsessed with ‘fake’ love in romance novels didn’t really feel realistic either. Her father leaving them and starting a new life with a new woman seems almost a good thing (her mother finds a career out of it) and it set the scene for the obsession with romance novels that got Becca Brett. So we have the supposed ‘damaged’ loner, dumped by her good friend and father, and reading romance books alone at school. All this felt a lot more told than shown.
I also found I didn’t like Becca or Brett. Brett was a caricature of a person – never feeling real or having any of the usual teen boy nuances. Becca, meanwhile, is given a chance to date a great guy and spends most of the time either being rude about it (avoiding him, not showing up to his practice, having to be forced to go to his games), not being thankful for the favor Brett did or musing endlessly on what it means to have a fake boyfriend. The whole first part of the book where we get to know Becca is a) she says a petty lie, b) she gets randomly helped out of the situation she got herself in by Brett and doesn’t even bother being thankful, c) spends the first chapters freaking out about it and not trying to help out Brett at all, d) stalking her father and seeing his new girlfriend (just so we feel sorry for her, I guess?). So why are we supposed to like her? What does Brett see in her? Feels very Mary Sue.
I did give up about half way through. The writing felt very amateurish and lacking sophistication in storytelling, character building/development, and plotting. I think if I was 12 or 13 years old, I’d really like the book. But I’ve read enough books now that the ‘wattpad’ nature of this story really shows glaringly. It’s a Twinkie – sweet but not very fulfilling. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.