Every girl has that one guy…that one guy who steals her heart and never gives it back.
We were all friends…until we weren’t.
We depended on each other…until we couldn’t.
We were in love…until we were ripped apart.
We moved on…even when we didn’t want to let go.
This is our love story.
**This standalone novel contains material that some may find disturbing. Intended for mature readers only.
***Actual rating: 5/5 Gut-Wrenching Stars***
”Come on, Charlie, come with me down the rabbit hole,” he squeaked in an unsteady voice.
For starters, this is the best book I’ve read this year so far and it’s also one of my top favorite NA novels. The story takes the whole NA genre up a notch and shows me that these books aren’t just about graphic sex scenes but incredibly emotional elements as well. It’s a bit inappropriate to say I enjoy reading the book a lot because of certain reasons and background, but I’m deeply captivated by its plot and the protagonists’ experiences. However, I would’ve loved the book more without the epilogue.
• Charlotte “Charlie” Stone–Before 16, she had 2 best friends in the world and fell in love with one of them. Before 17, everything was perfectly perfect. After 17, she had nothing. No friends, no family, nowhere to go, and nowhere to live. There was no Charlotte Stone, either. She disappeared. She changed. She turned into a desperate damsel in distress and later worked in half of her tattoo parlor which initially owned by the third person she trusted. Now 24, her once settled world is turned upside down again. Everything won’t be the same, but it’s not necessarily getting worse, right?
• Jase “JD” Delaney–At 9, he flipped Charlie off because he had no clue how to react when seeing a pretty girl. At 14, he was coward enough to let the girl he’d ever loved go to the dance with some jerk. At 16, he finally manned up and got back his girl. At 17, he left her involuntarily but at the same time, lost her completely. He might as well lost the largest piece of his heart to her. Now 24, things change and he’s a narcotic detective so the situations get complicated.
• Joey Graley-He’d been Charlie’s bestest best friend for as long as I know and his friendship with Charlie was definitely the ultimate goal in the entire friendship kingdom. He protected her, stood out for her, and was probably the only person who knew her jokes. Oh, and he was also the catalyst for Charlie and Jase’s relationship. Ain’t he just an awesome sauce?
As a 24-year-old girl, Charlie tells her story by reminiscing her childhood, teenage life, and everything before that horrific night. She also lets us know how she has been in the past seven years—years without Jase and friends and family—as a result, Charlie literally becomes my close friend after I finished reading this book. All I can say about Charlie is that she’s come a long way since she endured all those inhumane things and that it’s difficult for her to tell us her story.
A kaleidoscope of fleshy images and pain spun a design of madness before my eyes.
To begin with, Charlie, Jase, and Joey have been besties since forever; they go to the same schools, have the same enemies, and get the same sense of humor. When they’re not hanging around in Charlie or Joey’s house, they’ll gather in Charlie’s treehouse. Ironically, that treehouse turns out to be their safe haven when they grow up, but that’s another story.
One day, Charlie is bullied by her classmates, Slate Marshall and his minions in particular, because of her precocious puberty while Joey is bullied because he’s mistaken as Charlie’s boyfriend. (Stupid reason, I know) Then, here comes the superhero, Jase, who has the guts to fight Slate back and defends Charlie bravely. After the incident, the undefeatable threesome has formed.
Adorably, since Charlie is a huge bibliophile (just like us!), she makes Jase like reading as well. Throughout their early teenage years, their friendship remains as perfect as it used to be. Undoubtedly, they go on the same adventure together and explore the world in their rabbit hole.
Joey read the phrase with a raised brow. “What’s Rabbit Hole mean?”
Jases’s eyes grazed past Joey and landed on mine. “From Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, you know…down the rabbit hole, where there’s a whole different world. And it’s only ours. Our safe place to go from the jerks like Slate.”
Never do they expect something tragic will happen when they’re 16, and sadly, they’re no longer the threesome. In spite of the stone cold reality, their last toast together will always stay with them/us no matter how cruel Karma is.
Then Joey raised his glass higher. “Here’s to falling…” He leveled his eyes on both of us. “…in love…and to the best example of it that I’ve ever seen, which is sitting right in front of me. And here’s to hoping my two best friends finally find the guts to tell each other they’ve been in love with one another since the fourth fucking grade. Cheers.”
Apparently, Jase and Charlie fall in love and become the most lovable couple in the entire history of coupledom. However, Jase is left kicking and screaming when he’s forced to leave Charlie. Later, Charlie experiences her biggest BOOM in her life and has forever changed. Her eyes has turned lifeless, her body used and broken, and her soul rotten.
At the age of 24, the secret she tries so hard to protect and hide from Jase is threatened to be spilt out loud and at that moment, she knows all those sweet memories will be tarnished by the ugly truth.
Features (WHY YOU NEED TO READ THE BOOK)
Speaking of the special features in this book, well, prepare yourself, it’s gonna be a long list (why, the book is legit!). Besides, these are also what you could expect from the book.
✔️Precious friendship.: As you may know by now, Charlie, Jase, and Joey’s friendship is the best kind we can only hope for in life (or blissful enough to have one). They’ve been friends since childhood and you could see how naturally it’s developed from their interactions and convos.
✔️#RelationshipGoal: Charlie and Jase’s relationship is slowly built up and they didn’t be with each other without many obstacles. Thus, challenge after challenge, they prove that their love will last for a long time, if not forever. I can’t say I don’t swoon over their steamy scenes, but I feel like cherishing them carefully because those moments are hard earned and delicate like a fragile piece of art.
The last thing I remembered hearing was Jase’s low whisper against my ear, “Stay in the rabbit hole with me this time.”
✔️BASED ON TRUE EVENTS: This is probably what makes the story more relatable and convincing compared to others. The author mentions that this story takes her over 20 years to finish and finally publish, so I could feel her words through every chapter and every scene. Besides, this background also manages to make the story all the more heart-wrenching. There were several times my chest convulsed with sobs while tears wouldn’t stop streaming down my face and blurring my vision and I couldn’t read the next lines. The pain is excruciating and I seriously don’t understand how emotionally wrecked a person can be.
All this time, she just went on thinking that the monster that did this was still out there, but her only worry was about how it would affect me if I found out. All this time I’d wanted to be her hero, and she was already mine.
✔️Unique layout of the TIMELINE: Since the author spent more than 20 years to write this story, it’s not hard to tell the difference between her earlier parts and later ones. Although some readers find it confusing to sort out the plot line, I’m positive that once you’re used to the certain pattern of her writing style, you’ll be addicted to it. For example, you’ll realize that each chapter starts with the character’s (either Charlie or Jase) current status and always ends with a piece of their childhood memory. Moreover, the story is told in the chronological order; therefore, (take Charlie’s POV for example) it’s like 24(yo)→9→24→10→24→…→17→24~present.
✔️Alternative POVs: Most of the chapters are told from Charlie’s POV and some are Jase’s. Either way, they make the plot more clear and easy to picture.
✔️Using “YOUs”: One thing I absolutely adore about this book is that the readers won’t feel left alone or read it as an outsider. The author sometimes tells the story including questions/explanations for us as if she’s making sure we’re on the same page with her. That’s really brilliant because the story sounds more like a diary this way and we’ll be able to feel closer to the characters.
✔️Bookworm Problems Alert! Did I mention Charlie is also a booklover? She reads, fangirls, and dreams about being swept away by book boyfriends or jumping into the rabbit hole with Jase. Hence, the fact she reacts like most of us do (believe me, I know what you guys do secretly when you think no one’s watching) when it comes to books reinforces the impression of the story. This is another reason which makes me smile throughout the book, aside from her reveling in the sweet memory of being young.
I mean, come on, my best friend just asked me to kiss him with a quote from one of my favorite books!
Unfortunately, the epilogue is the only part I strongly dislike. I mean, the whole story is about a young girl’s life and I’d rather let her and her Prince Charming stay that way instead of zooming out to their life 50 frigging years later! Although it’s still a HEA, the epilogue somehow feels foreign and out of place to me. I guess Christine Zolendz makes this arrangement because she wants to project the image of a once beautiful threesome (Charlie, Jase, Joey) again and wraps up the story beautifully. However, this feeling is too far away to grasp; hence, I would’ve enjoyed the book more if there were another ending or simply without the epilogue. Though I do have an idea for a different ending: Perhaps Miss Zolendz could tell the readers more about Jase and Charlie’s life after they get back together and he embraces her regardless of the incident. I’m more interested in how or when they get married, have kids, or build a lovable family together. In my opinion, it’s a bit superficial to cover their 50-year-life-afterward in a few sentences such as “they live happily and everything’s perfect” or “their kids and grandchildren are doing fantastic and grow up healthily”; instead, I’d prefer more detailed information about their life together and how they deal with the loss and past.
All in all, I’m truly, really, completely impressed with this story. The power of words, the courage those characters have, and the tremendous influence on me after reading it. There will never be enough words to describe my inner feelings when reading this book, so you’ll have to read it for yourself. Please give this book a try, guys. I’ll always be there when you need someone to talk to about the story. Lastly, Here’s to Falling is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED to everyone who wants your heart to be shattered by the strongest words I’ve ever read. In other words, it’s a MUST-READ for you!