The Upside of Falling

Book review by
Carrie Kingsley, Common Sense Media
The Upside of Falling Book Poster Image
Fake dating turns real and opposites attract in fun romance.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

A little on how to structure an essay and navigate the non-academic aspects of high school.

Positive Messages

Being honest about your feelings is hard but helpful and rewarding. Be open to giving people a second chance.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Becca's and Brett's families want what's best for them, and are supportive of their ambitions and their feelings.

Violence
Sex

Kissing and touching, reference to mild nudity.

Language

Very limited swearing ("f--k," "s--t").

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A character mentions teens drinking at an annual party.  

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Alex Light's The Upside of Falling has characters that are both likable and layered, while the predictable "opposites attract" storyline moves along with the brisk pace of a summer beach read. Readers can see there's a safety in being "just friends" that allows Becca and Brett to be real with each other, and the different roles of parents in their lives reflects the differences between -- and within -- families. While the romance, family trouble, anger, ambition, and the high school social scene are age appropriate, there's minimal swearing ("f--k," "s--t"), kissing, and teen drinking.

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What's the story?

In THE UPSIDE OF FALLING, quiet, studious Becca only trusts the love she reads about in romance novels after her parents' divorce, and football captain Brett wants nothing more than to make his seemingly perfect parents proud. Neither is interested in love, but both want to get their parents to stop bugging them about not dating anyone. So they make a pact: They'll pretend to be a couple, their families will be happy, and Brett and Becca don't have to worry about real romance. Of course that can't last, and the fake relationship that develops between them is rooted in honesty and vulnerability that comes with opening up. When they each face the troubles within their own family, they have to decide if it's better to ditch the fake romance or let each other in and be real.

Is it any good?

While the plot is fairly predictable, the main characters' chemistry and vulnerability help make this teen romance an enjoyable, fun read. The Upside of Falling takes the school social scene that many readers navigate daily and adds a hopeful twist, that friendship and honesty with each other can be the foundation for a romantic relationship. Becca's character has much more depth than Brett's, almost to the point of it seeming implausible that he was aware of Becca's uncomfortable situation to begin with. Every relationship here is aspirational: Everyone is earnest and fundamentally good, everyone is trying their best, no one is out to hurt anyone else. That sweetness can be a little trite, but it's also the reason readers will hope these two fakers overcome their obstacles and happen for real.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the romance in The Upside of Falling. Does it seem realistic? How does this novel compare with other love stories you've read? 

  • Who are your heroes? Do you think of them differently when they are part of your life, like Brett's dad, rather than public or historical figures?

  • Do you think The Upside of Falling would make a good movie? Why or why not? How different is the experience of reading a romance novel and watching a romcom? 

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