Summary and book reviews of A Step Toward Falling by Cammie McGovern

A Step Toward Falling

by Cammie McGovern

A Step Toward Falling by Cammie McGovern X
A Step Toward Falling by Cammie McGovern
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    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Oct 2015, 368 pages
    Paperback:
    Dec 2016, 368 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Bradley Sides

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About this Book

Book Summary

Cammie McGovern follows up her breakout young adult debut, Say What You Will, with this powerful and unforgettable novel about learning from your mistakes, and learning to forgive. Told in alternating points of view, A Step Toward Falling is a poignant, hopeful, and altogether stunning work that will appeal to fans of Jennifer Nevin, Robyn Schneider, and Jandy Nelson.

Emily has always been the kind of girl who tries to do the right thing - until one night when she does the worst thing possible. She sees Belinda, a classmate with developmental disabilities, being attacked. Inexplicably, she does nothing at all.

Belinda, however, manages to save herself. When their high school finds out what happened, Emily and Lucas, a football player who was also there that night, are required to perform community service at a center for disabled people. Soon, Lucas and Emily begin to feel like maybe they're starting to make a real difference. Like they would be able to do the right thing if they could do that night all over again. But can they do anything that will actually help the one person they hurt the most?

Emily

At our first meeting with the director of the Life-long Learning Center, Lucas doesn't speak to me once. Elaine, the director, thanks us for "volunteering our time" even though she knows we aren't here voluntarily. We all know this.

"You have a choice," she says. "You can come in Saturday mornings and do office work or you can come Wednesday evenings for a class called Boundaries and Relationships that goes over basic rules about socializing and dating for young adults with developmental disabilities. Even though you're a few years younger, you'll provide examples of a typical peer's approach to friendships and dating. They'll be interested in what you do on dates and how you go about making new friends, that kind of thing."

I can just imagine what my friend Richard will say when I tell him this: "Wait, they're looking at you as a dating role model?"

I turn and look at Lucas. I expect him to say, "I'll take the office work, please." All things considered...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Why do you think Emily and Lucas failed to act when they saw Belinda being attacked? Do you agree that they are partially at fault? Do you think their community service assignment was a fair punishment?
  2. In the beginning of the book Emily makes a lot of assumptions about Lucas: "He probably thinks it's more my fault than his" (p. 16). Why do you think Emily is so quick to judge him? Do you think she was unfair?
  3. The book switches perspectives between Emily and Belinda. What do you think they have in common? How are they different? How is Belinda treated differently because of her disability?
  4. After a few sessions of class, Emily encourages her friends to stop using the word retarded to mean stupid. "For years this has been a standard...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

McGovern expertly mixes sentimentality with grit, and she gets the balance just right. What she’s painted here is a beautiful portrait of a real teenage world that is capable of hopefulness and healing.   (Reviewed by Bradley Sides).

Full Review (719 words).

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Media Reviews

Indiebound.org

Wonder meets Eleanor and Park in this authentic romance with beautifully crafted characters.

The Globe and Mail

[McGovern] gives readers characters, not archetypes. It’s a poignant, warm, compelling book that insists that mistakes and redemption can go hand in hand

Kirkus Reviews

Alternating viewpoints illustrate how braving the uncertainty of relationships, expectations, and life after high school transcends class or ability. The sensitive overview of tough issues gracefully balances romance with reality. Fans of Jane Austen will appreciate this unconventional homage.

VOYA

This book might lead to an interesting discussion about responsibility, about standing up for someone, about doing the right thing.

The Horn Book

Belinda’s voice is perfectly pitched: it’s clear that she’s thought her world through on her own terms. By including a wide variety of distinct characters, the novel shows that the presence or absence of a disability is just one of many aspects of who a person is.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Readers will be surprised, moved, amused, worried, hopeful, and grateful.

Booklist

Starred Review. Exhilarating and heartrending. This novel is stunning.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Arts Education Empowers Youth with Disabilities

Aristotle once said, "Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all." Those words were uttered nearly 2,400 years ago, but they are still relevant today. Education that gives meaning is the kind of learning that we remember. Today, art education is one place where teenagers learn about the world surrounding them and the more personal world within themselves. The arts capture our hearts, and this early introduction to creativity instills passions that can last a lifetime.

The power of the arts takes center stage in Cammie McGovern's A Step Toward Falling. McGovern's novel tells the story of Belinda, a cognitively disabled youth, who is assaulted during a high school football game. She suffers from the trauma ...

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