When the plane taking their parents to Anguilla for vacation suddenly drops out of the sky, leaving no survivors, Jack, Josie, Archie, Harrison, and Dayana must rediscover their preschool friendship to manage their grief. At a glance this book appears to have a lot going on, but on closer inspection you find that it is quite simply about the struggles and hardships teenagers face. They deal with a lot, they go through a lot, bad things happen to them, and David Kreizman allows us to see this through the characters in The Year They Fell.
The book is told from the perspective of all five teenagers, switching narrator with each chapter. I have found that usually this writing technique is a love it or hate it situation, either it is absolutely perfect, or completely worthless. However, with this book I did not love the varying narrator style, but found it was absolutely essential to the story. With the constantly changing perspective, it felt very difficult to get to know the characters as well as you should in a book, especially when the character is going through as much as these five are. Without the changing perspective though, we wouldn’t have gotten to know most of the characters at all. It would have been a very self centered story for whichever character was decided to be most important. Each character is dealing with a lot of personal problems (on top of losing their parents), and we needed to get into each of their heads to fully appreciate this story.
This is a typical young adult, contemporary fiction novel. It has a lot of drama, and goes over board in that area at the end. However, this book is one of the best I have seen to represent mental health struggles in teens. It doesn’t give us the unhealthy perception that the right relationship will heal all, it shows the never ending struggle that comes with having a mental illness, like anxiety or addiction. It takes WORK, not a magical romantic interest, and I commend Kreizman for showing that work in The Year They Fell, not just for one character, but all of them (even a side character, Dayana’s father, goes through the constant ups and downs of depression).
I also need to praise the way Kriezman show’s a survivor of child sexual abuse. As a survivor myself, I never really felt like a saw myself in a book until I read Josie’s story, and read about the way she feels about and deals with what happened to her (other survivors, please be warned that this part of the novel can be triggering). It is realistic in the most horrible, but necessary way. All in, this is a worthy addition to today’s contemporary YA shelves.