Monthly Book Club: Falling Under by Gwen Hayes

We are back once again for the monthly book chat. This time around we decided to force MinnChica out of her comfort zone with a young adult book – Falling Under by Gwen Hayes.


Theia Alderson has always led a sheltered life in the small California town of Serendipity Falls. But when a devastatingly handsome boy appears in the halls of her school, Theia knows she’s seen Haden before- not around town, but in her dreams.

As the Haden of both the night and the day beckons her closer one moment and pushes her away the next, the only thing Theia knows for sure is that the incredible pull she feels towards him is stronger than her fear.

And when she discovers what Haden truly is, Theia’s not sure if she wants to resist him, even if the cost is her soul.

*Blurb from Goodreads*

This discussion contains some spoilers.

MinnChica: Since we decided to step out of my comfort zone this time around, I really really tried to give this all I got, but for some reason I have a very very difficult time getting into YA books. I have trouble with voice, the way parents are treated as either evil or a minor character (if at all) and just how immature the kids really seem. For me, I only made it to about 50 pages before I put it down and stopped. I just couldn’t go on. Theia had spent a few scenes thinking and even interacting with her father, and yet we hadn’t even heard more than 10 words from him! He was non-existent, and I hate that. I had a hard time connecting with Theia’s voice as well, and just found myself struggling to read even one sentence.

Lou: I have to say, I really struggled through this. I rarely read YA paranormal because of the predictable and overused tropes, and Falling Under was no different. The beginning was so slow, and I had such a hard time believing that Theia’s reaction when the ‘burning man’ fell from the sky, and she acted in such a normal way when he was literally burning alive. And then the next morning, she thinks it was a dream and carries on normally. And then there was the weak worldbuilding where Theia was conveniently transported to the dreamlike state, and it was so hazy and weak that I nearly stopped reading around 60 pages in. And when the mysterious boy she dreams about enters her school, and then acts like a creeper, I thought oh boy. And I agree, what was up with her Father? It was so strange and seemed like an overused trope of a rich titled British Father, that I found to be quite insulting truthfully. I didn’t find it believable at all, and it was just more added tension to a weak storyline.

Has: I read a lot of YA, and I agree about the predictable and overused trope aspects, especially the mysterious new boy who may or may not be good. And I also agree that the beginning was very slow. However I did think the 2nd half of the book was much stronger and I actually enjoyed the creepy dreamy atmosphere — although I agree that the world-building at the beginning was too vague for me too. But I did enjoy how it panned out later in the book with the demonic realms and the scary imagery that it had.

Lou: I found that within the second half, I still had trouble liking the story because it was just so predictable. The type cast best friends, with Donny as boy/sex mad and the Amelia as the shy one. And I wondered if Donny was typecast as too adult, because I’m no prude when it comes to sex or sex being shown in YA, but when it was mentioned that Donny had so many hook ups from the men she picked up in the club, I was kind of shocked as she’s only seventeen and I thought it was quite sad that she wasn’t portrayed in any other way. And that’s what my main dislike of the book was. It was all about the three girls hooking up/ finding their guy, and there didn’t seem to be any other purpose in their lives other than getting the guy. Haden was beyond creepy, and even though he was a demon, him calling Theia a trollop because of her dress was so beyond insulting that I couldn’t read about him as a hero. The way in which he treated Theia was appalling.

Has: I agree the friends did feel like archetypes but I think their characterisation especially with their dialogue, chemistry and how they interacted made them feel more believable for me. I didn’t see a problem with Donny hooking up guys and I don’t think it was that many and I actually found that refreshing. I do think Amelia was less developed compared to Donny and I wished her psychic gift was explained or expanded more especially since this played a bigger part in the latter of the book. I LOVED the cross-dressing psychic, and I think that made Theia’s group so colourful and lively for me.

I think with the case of Haden, he was half demon and so for me it works that he is creepy and the twist at the end showed a different side to him. I am tired of the trope, ‘I have to stay away from you because I am too dangerous’ which is what I think bogged the story down in the beginning. I would have loved to see more of the demon side WANTING Theia instead of being just evil and Haden trying to be good. It didn’t work for me and I think it would bring out a different dynamic in the story.

Lou: With Donny, I had no issue that she was sexually active, but I think when you make the character all about that and nothing else, I find it sort of demeaning. Because other than that side of her character, there was nothing else about Donny that I learnt. And I definitely agree that Amelia was left almost as a side piece, and you sometimes forgot that she was there. The cross dressing psychic added play-fullness to the story, and he added that sparkle that was missing through the entire book for me because I found Theia to be incredibly boring, and the way in which she let Haden treat her and then went back for more, I felt like banging my head on the desk. If the roles were reversed, I think it would have been a much different story for me, and even though I liked how Haden became towards the end of the book when he became human, it was a little too late because soon after he was turned back into a demon. All in all, I found myself struggling through this book, and it’s made me reinforce my belief that a lot of YA paranormals are the same with no originality, and I shall avoid them like the plague. 😀

Has: I have a different take on this book. I think Donny was a foil to bring Theia out of her shell, and I actually felt that she was more fleshed out and interesting than Theia. Donny had flaws and wasn’t as perfect or boring as Theia. I suspect there is more to Theia in later books although I think her time in the demonic realm might flesh out her character more. In a lot of ways this was more of a Sleeping Beauty retelling as much as a Hades and Persephone take on the myth. I feel the same about YA paranormals, but I think Falling Under had a great dreamy tone, and yes, there were flaws especially in the first half, but there was real imagination in this book and I think this saves it from the usual Twilighteque YA’s.

We really want to know you thoughts if you’ve read this book, but want to know more about your thoughts on YA Paranormals. Does the genre need some shaking up, or do you enjoy reading about the mysterious boy, and the girl that makes sacrifices for him?

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