As you know if you’ve read any of my reviews, I’m a sucker for something that hasn’t been done before (or that has been done so rarely that I’ve never heard of it). While cousins in love is not at all a new story, the fact that they are teenagers in the Midwest in 2014 is indeed a new story. I can’t remember having read anything that wasn’t so old as to be in the public domain with this kind of premise. So Kate had me right where she wanted me from the start.
I also love when a story takes place somewhere that is familiar to me, but not to millions of other people. For example, I don’t get excited about a book that takes place in Houston (where I live), but I do when it’s set in rural northwest Missouri (where my husband was born and raised). I got a little thrill when St. Joseph (the closest town of much size in the area) was mentioned, and when I chatted with Kate on Twitter, she said she was from a town near Maryville, where my in-laws still live.
Kate had me enthralled with the setting and the premise, but it was the execution of the story that kept me reading. I had thought I would read How We Fall in one sitting, but as I got into the book, I realized that it was too intense for that. I’d read about fifty pages, then take a break for a couple of days. The complexities of an unusual living arrangement (four adults and way too many kids; think the shoe house from the nursery rhyme), the added tension that comes from Marcus and Jackie living in the same house (but loving only in secret), and the disappearance of Jackie’s best friend results in a dense and powerful story.
Until the last couple of chapters, I felt that the whole side-story of the bestie’s disappearance wasn’t necessary, and I was actually a bit annoyed at it for taking up time that could be spent on the sexual tension between Marcus and Jackie (which was really spectacular). But by the time I turned the last page, I understood that the absence of her friend opened Jackie up more completely to Marcus. I won’t give away the ending, but the disappearance actually made all the pieces fit together.