I sit in his old chair, at his desk. I lean my head back and close my eyes. The chair is falling apart because he wore it down, got it to fit him perfectly. He refused to throw it out and now I'm trying hard to belong to the space he left behind, but I'm awkward and small and I don't. - Page 14
Grief touches different people in different ways. Eddie's mother has withdrawn from the world and stays at home. Beth, her mother's best friend, has moved in to try to help the broken family, but Eddie greatly dislikes her and would rather be out of the house while she's in it. Eddie finds some solace in Milo, the boy who has been her best friend since second grade, but when his ex-girlfriend comes back to town, she finds it easier to pull away from him.
Enter Culler Evans, who studied photography with her father. Who knows things about her father she doesn't. Who, at 20 years old, is removed from the high school scene. Who seems willing to help her figure out what could have driven her seemingly well-adjusted, successful father to end his life.
In her third novel, Courtney Summers has once again created a protagonist readers will care about, a young girl who is far from infallible. Eddie's vulnerability is apparent without making her a damsel in distress; she's not looking for someone to save her, and she knows it's too late to save her father, but she has a natural desire to preserve the good memories she has of him, of her family, and of herself. Classmates and other people in town say to Eddie casually, even thoughtlessly, that sometimes spur her into action. Even when she starts acting on impulse, Eddie is (thankfully) not utterly reckless. No one has more questions than she does - and no one has the answers she wants and needs.
I stare straight ahead. I don't want to look at [my mom]. I don't want to look at her because she's a misery vortex and I'm already sad enough. If she sucks me into her grief, that will be it. This whole household will go under. - Page 216
It would be easy to state the obvious: Fall For Anything is about loss, and grief, and, ultimately, acceptance. But that makes it sound like it's easy, to a degree, to get to that acceptance - and it's not. It isn't. As in her previous novels, Cracked Up to Be and Some Girls Are, Courtney Summers offers an unflinching look at the aftermath of a life-changing event. The author creates layered characters who talk and act like people really do. They hurt each other, intentionally or unintentionally, with their words and their actions. They are sometimes reluctant to accept the blame and face the consequences for their actions, yet they will blame themselves for things that weren't their fault, things that are beyond their control. Even if they didn't mean to say something, they meant what they said.
The truth can hurt. The truth can heal. The most important truths do both.
That's what we truly have to accept.
Beth has been my mother's best friend since way before I was born. Beth is what happens to mean girls after they graduate high school. Beth is what happens to mean girls after they graduate high school and turn forty. Beth is what happens to mean girls after they graduate high school, turn forty, and develop gerontophobia and thanatophobia, which means she's unnaturally afraid of getting older and dying, which would be sad if her endless Botox injections and vitamin-popping and paranoid trips to the doctor weren't so mockable. Beth stays out of the sun as much as possible. She doesn’t want wrinkles or cancer, but she's a walking spray-on tan because she doesn’t want to look old either. She's always hated me. She wishes Mom and Dad never got married or had a kid because my existence just reminds her of how old she’s getting. - Page 5
- and a few pages later:
For her next birthday, I'm going to break into her house and fill it with clocks. - Page 8
Another favorite passage:
I stay in bed for a long time, staring at the ceiling, my mind blank. Empty. It sounds depressing, but it's not. Sometimes you can think too much. I actually made myself sick the first three days after because I had thoughts bigger than the space that contained them and too many of them were happening at once. Sometimes the quiet is good. Most times not, but just for now, in this tiny moment where the sun is edging up the sky, it's okay. - Page 46
Soundtrack for the book:
The album Stronger by Kelly Clarkson; the song Paint's Peeling by Rilo Kiley
Related posts at Bildungsroman:
Interview: Courtney Summers
Book Review: Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers
Book Review: This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers
What Makes Courtney Summers Smile