Amber Vaughn is a good girl. She sings solos at church, babysits her nephew after school, and spends every Friday night hanging out at her best friend Devon’s house. It’s only when Amber goes exploring in the woods near her home, singing camp songs with the hikers she meets on the Appalachian Trail, that she feels free—and when the bigger world feels just a little bit more in reach.
When Amber learns about an audition at the North Carolina School of the Arts, she decides that her dream—to sing on bigger stages—could also be her ticket to a new life. Devon’s older (and unavailable) brother, Will, helps Amber prepare for her one chance to try out for the hypercompetitive arts school. But the more time Will and Amber spend together, the more complicated their relationship becomes . . . and Amber starts to wonder if she’s such a good girl, after all.
Then, in an afternoon, the bottom drops out of her family’s world—and Amber is faced with an impossible choice between her promise as an artist and the people she loves. Amber always thought she knew what a good girl would do. But between “right” and “wrong,” there’s a whole world of possibilities.
Often times, contemporary young adult fiction is a hit or miss, whether it may be due to teens and their desire to escape society or the lack of original plot that can be found in them. No Place to Fall, it seems, landed somewhere in the middle for me.
The plot fell somewhat flat for me, and while some of the themes were new and well developed, most of the novel as a whole has a very generic base and didn’t have the ability to stand on it’s own. As far as contemporary goes, this story is no different than any other–that someone can see from the synopsis.
On the positive side, No Place to Fall focuses on the real, and unfortunate, hardships that everyday Americans face, while dealing with them in realistic ways. It was because of this that the novel was so easy to relate to, and it helps readers feel connected to the main character. There were times where Amber was feeling such pain and worry for her family that I could swear I felt it myself. Even on reading breaks, I’d catch myself asking why I felt so glum, or so cranked up, and it didn’t take me long each time to realize who the culprit was.
So many of the personas in this book felt three-dimensional, and my love for that is infinite. It’s so easy to find that we all know Wills, Devons, Whitneys and Amber-o-zias while following along with this original tale. And while all of this was lovely, I felt like some sterotypes were built up here, the most being that of the portrayal of southern persons and southern living. I, myself, have multiple dear friends scattered across the Deep, Lower, and Upper South. All are unique and vibrant in their own ways, but never have I heard so much slang since coming across No Place to Fall. This may not sound so horrid to some of you, but I may also be holding back the fact that it’s implied a a southern individual may have no idea what a Fender is, because, well, it’s the South and there are so many stereotypes about small town living that why would they? The plot also dragged along in a way that felt like it was leading to nowhere. Amber was being thrown left and right and Brown left absolutely no room for her to make decisions on her own. So many choices were stolen from her by different strings of events, and while in the real world this may very well happen time and time again, it all felt strategically planned and not at all fluid. All in all, Amber came across as a musically inclined student full of ambition but without much of an idea what she wants to do with it–which is not to say this is a bad thing, because some, if not many, teens and young people at heart are indecisive at best.
Anyone who’s looking for an interesting read about the dark side of drugs, small towns, and maybe some bluegrass will love the latest story Jaye Robin Brown has for us.