Book Review | Falling (ARC)

I received an advance reader’s copy (ARC) of Falling by T. J. Newman. Since this version is just a proof and not the final version, I won’t quote directly and will keep my comments general.

I fully believe that if I hadn’t had to go to work, I would have finished this book in a few hours. As it was, I read about two thirds of this in one day!

I really wanted to take a picture when a plane flew overhead, but it was too hot outside to wait! Imagine one in this photo at your leisure.

In Falling, nearly one hundred and fifty people board a plane in Los Angeles, heading to New York City. What they and the flight attendants don’t know is that that morning, the pilot’s family was kidnapped. Now, the pilot has been issued an ultimatum: if he doesn’t crash the plane, the kidnapper will kill his family. He has the duration of the flight—a mere five hours or so—to decide what to do.

I don’t normally read suspense, so this was quite an unusual experience for me.

The pilot, Bill, was a decent character, though he’s not the most original. He’s kind of a generic everyman thrust into an insane situation that we’ve seen in lots of stories like this. However, Newman does a great job of establishing his bond with his wife and children, so it’s easy to sympathize with his plight. The emotions are very real.

The other characters are excellent, though, especially Jo. She absolutely stole the show for me, though obviously I can’t tell you why.

The pacing of this story, which takes place in about five hours, is relentless and exciting. The varying points of view we get, from Bill’s wife Carrie, to the flight attendants, to Jo’s nephew Theo on the ground, give a wonderful multi-dimensional look at what’s going on. The audience tends to know more than each of these characters, and the resulting dramatic irony is wonderful.

On another note (and this is verging slightly into spoiler territory, so if you want to read this book, look away now, I guess?), I am not sure how I feel about the identity of the kidnappers/hijackers. Like, can’t we have a more original plot than vengeful extremists from Syria taking over a plane? However, I do not think Newman is being intentionally malicious in her writing; it does seem she has done research and attempted to add nuance to the situation, and it does make you think about how Americans are not devoid of blame and inciting violence abroad. But still. The more I think about it, the more I wish the conflict had been rooted in something different.

In the end, Falling is an intense read, with plenty of action balanced well by the believable character moments. I feel like I just watched a movie, it’s that vivid. Some of the plot points were a little predictable, but others definitely weren’t. You really feel you’re there with the passengers, as Newman’s decade of real experience as a flight attendant shines through. However, it does occasionally reek of perpetuating stereotypes, so… hmm.

Content note: A few scenes of graphic violence, plus just tons of suspense in which lots of people are in peril.

Falling will be published on July 6th, 2021!

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