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This Book Owes Me 6 Hours Of My Life

A review of Charles Benoit's Fall From Grace, a book you should really just skip.

This Book Owes Me 6 Hours Of My Life

BOOK REPORT for Fall From Grace by Charles Benoit

Cover Story: What?
BFF Charm: No Way
Swoonworthy Scale: 1
Talky Talk: Phoning It In
Bonus Factor: Ice Cream
Anti-Bonus Factors: Cardboard Parents, Manic Pixie Dream Girl, Cheating
Relationship Status: Restraining Order

Cover Story: What?

What does this look like -- a kid lost in a snowstorm? Maybe a young hiker who goes it alone and falls off a cliff during an avalanche and gets stuck in a blizzard and possibly chased by a serial killer? Sounds kind of cool, but nope. It's one of those covers designed to appeal to guys and maybe adult fans of Benoit's books who would be embarrassed to carry around something plastered with PDA, so it has nothing at all to do with the book and isn't even graphically appealing.

The Deal:

Sawyer's whole life is planned out for him -- by his helicopter parents, his bitch girlfriend Zoë, by just about everyone else but himself. At a model UN summit, he meets Grace, who has a plan of her own, and starts questioning his lack of spine when he gets swept up in her quest for fame.

BFF Charm: No Way

Sawyer is worse than a jellyfish -- at least those spineless creatures sting. He mopes through his life, backing down the one time he stands up to his dad. Even when he starts to question following his parents' plans, he doesn't come up with one of his own; he just jumps on board Grace's crazy train. And Grace is psycho. She's not funny, she's not cute, she's a little bit sad and pathetic, but -- and this is from someone who didn't like Garden State the first time, so take it with a grain of salt -- the no-explanation crazy girl act is just not interesting, no matter how much I might enjoy a little fictional B&E from time to time.

Swoonworthy Scale: 1

I'll throw Sawyer and Grace a bone (haha) and give them a 1 for the will-they-or-won't-they tension I couldn't be bothered to get into, since I didn't like them. But Sawyer-boy's just lucky I didn't deduct a zillion points for his relationship with Zoë, the world's most manipulative and controlling bitch. He stays with her because she lets him screw her once a month or so, BUT MAKES HIM KEEP HIS PANTS AND SOCKS ON. Only a 17-year-old boy, which is why I'm not actually friends with any real-life 17-year-old boys. Gross.

Talky Talk: Phoning It In

I feel like Benoit had a decent idea at the beginning, but didn't have the energy or desire to really go anywhere with it. The writing is fine -- clear, the plot moves, the characters are fairly defined (albeit awful) -- but it reads a lot like an "adult author jumping on the YA bandwagon" book, and I didn't expect Benoit to be one of those. His YA debut You is pretty well regarded. I do wonder if he decided to write teenagers as realistically as possible, and doesn't actually LIKE teenagers all that much. Also, the end was rushed and didn't make a whole lot of sense, though that could be because I didn't care to figure it out at that point. Grace's caper -- an art heist -- was pretty cool, and I am curious about the coat-hanger/crash-bar door-opening trick. Anyone tried that one? I work from home, so I don't have a handy door to test it on.

Bonus Factor: Ice Cream

I hate to be so negative about a book, I really do. So, hey! Sawyer works in an ice cream shop, along with a nice little character cliche, the Wise Old Geezer. I love ice cream!

Anti-Bonus Factor: Cardboard Parents

The parents in this book are so two-dimensional it's just sad. They're the height of helicopter parents, and I suppose I could read this entire book as a scathing Tom-Wolfe-esque satire on today's youth and parenting. They do his homework and even his college applications -- for their alma mater -- while handing out weak-ass platitudes they obviously don't live, like, "If you find something you love, you'll never work a day in your life."

Anti-Bonus Factor: Manic Pixie Dream Girl

A lot's been said against the manic pixie dream girl, the girl who's just so quirky! And fun! And bops into the square guy's life and pulls him out of his loser shell by visiting Coney Island in the winter! And shoplifting from the Dollar Store! And planning art heists! And Grace does not disappoint.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Cheating

Ok, so on this one I fully display my major nerd credentials, but even as a teenager I didn't think cheating was cool. The semi-popular kids at my high school who got busted cheating (I can still name ALL FOUR of them, first and last) achieved a not-good level of notoriety, and lost all popularity. Maybe I was naive about the cool kids, but I think my school was just really competitive and cheating was a lot harder in 1997 than it is now. Anyway, I just felt squicky about the cavalier attitude toward downloading papers from the internet and using spycam glasses to cheat on a pre-cal test. PLAGIARISM ISN'T COOL, YO.

Casting Call:

Olivia Thirlby as Grace

If Olivia Thirlby played Grace, I'd probably like the movie.

Candice Accola as Zoë

On the other hand, she'd probably be HILARIOUS as bitch-ass Daddy's Princess Zoë, too, but Candice Accola will do the trick.

Michael Cera as Sawyer

Oh, Michael Cera, you've been off the radar for a while! I'll lift my sanctions so you can come back and play Sawyer for me.

Relationship Status: Restraining Order

Y'all, I did not like this book. I KNOW, RIGHT? I thought we'd at least have a nice time, and a decent dinner, but it took me to McDonald's UNIRONICALLY, then tried to PASS IT OFF as ironic! I had to pull the fake-BFF emergency to get out of the date, and even after that it kept hanging out by my locker and cruising by my house late at night, until I had to get my dad to go threaten it with a shotgun. Normally I like to let books down easy, and I feel bad, but dude.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my review copy from HarperTeen.  I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!). Fall From Grace is available now.

Meghan Miller's photo About the Author: Meghan is an erstwhile librarian in exile from Texas and writer for Forever Young Adult. She loves books, cooking and homey things like knitting and vintage cocktails. Although she’s around books all the time, she doesn’t get to read as much as she’d like.