The Upside of Falling

The Upside of Falling by Alex Light


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Book Review

The bookish Becca and high school heartthrob Brett “pretend” they’re in love. But this fake relationship may be the realest thing in their lives.

Plot Summary

Becca loves to read romance novels. Romance itself, however, has no place in her teenage life. Ever since her dad abandoned her and her mom five years ago, Becca has determined that there is no such things as real love. Her heart is wrapped in chains and locked down tight. She believes it’s just a painful construct that ends up hurting whoever grabs ahold of it.

In book form, romance is cool, but only as a silly distraction. After all, pretend is fun. Reality is pain. And in a way, that’s how Becca ended up in a “relationship” with the cutest guy in their high school.

She was in the school hallway being teased by a former friend, Jenny, about being 17 and never having a boyfriend. And Becca awkwardly lied about actually having a boyfriend, in an effort to get her to shut up and leave her alone. Jenny kept pressing.

That’s when Brett, the tall, handsome, captain of the football team came up, put his arm around her waist and told Jenny that he was Becca’s love interest. Jenny was dumbfounded—as was Becca. But Jenny didn’t believe a word of it. That’s when Brett kissed Becca, to prove it beyond a doubt and send Jenny off in a huff.

All Becca could do was stammer, grab her books and walk away, too. Quickly. Her heart hammering in her chest.

Later, Becca and Brett have a chance to talk. It turns out that he was actually trying to be a nice guy and help Becca out. He overheard the whole discussion and could easily identify with Becca’s plight. He gets the same who-ya-hooking-up-with treatment from his teammates. But all he wants to do is focus on football and then worry about settling down sometime after college.

However, now that Jenny has begun spreading the news that Becca and Brett are a couple, they have a decision to make. They can spill the beans and admit it was all a lie or … or what?

What if they kept the fake relationship going? They could sit together at lunch and stuff. Becca could show up at a game or two wearing Brett’s jersey. And no one would be the wiser. Better yet, everybody would get off their backs. In a month or two they could have a mutual and amicable breakup. Easy peasy.

If you put the whole plan down on paper, it might read much like one of Becca’s romance novels. Only without the romance. Or at least it’s supposed to be without the romance.

Becca’s quickly beating heart, straining against a set of chains and a lock, might have something else to say about the matter.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems

The only belief sets explored here are the strong bonds of love between family members and the power of forgiveness.

Authority Roles

Becca’s cynical view of love (and in some ways, of life) were shaped when she was 12, when her father walked out on her mom. His leaving helped form Becca into a young woman who constantly struggles with hurt, self-doubt and an ongoing sense of distrustfulness. Her father even settles down in town with another woman to start a new family, but he never once comes to check on her. Becca sometimes watches his house from a distance.

That abandonment impacted her relationship with her mom in some positive ways, though: The two are very close and protective of each other. Their love for each other is abundant and evident. Becca’s mom learns new skills and starts her own business. And if anything, Mom is eager to see Becca find love and connections of her own. She encourages her daughter to do so in healthy ways.

Eventually, Becca learns—through her relationship with Brett and his own struggles—that the only way to be free from the hurt she feels is to face her negligent father, forgive him for his betrayal and walk away with as clean of an emotional slate as possible.

Brett, on the other hand, seemingly has it all. He’s athletic, handsome and very likeable. And his parents appear to be a perfect couple. But that parental relationship is a façade, for Brett’s dad is having an affair as well. This betrayal nearly breaks Brett. But his loving mother is willing to forgive his father and the family eventually works toward reconciliation and healing. (Brett shows his mom a great deal of gentle and loving support.) Becca is a big part of that process through her sincere care for Brett.

In fact, as much as the bookish Becca and the jockish Brett seem like a very unlikely match, the two find that their different perspectives and common displays of kindness make them solid friends. That friendship fills various holes in their lives and eventually leads to love—even though they both drag their feet on that front.

Becca and Brett also have several friends that help them talk through some of their struggles with the idea of caring for and needing others.

Profanity & Violence

By and large, this is a nicely romantic tale. But in the heated anger of betrayal, we read quite a bit of spewed foul language, including several uses of the f-word, a half dozen s-words and several uses each of the words “h—,” “a–” and “d–n.”

Becca and Brett go to a teen-only party where the students are drinking. But the protagonist couple doesn’t imbibe and the narrative doesn’t describe what others are drinking.

When an enraged Brett finally comes face-to-face with his father and the man’s mistress, he punches his dad in the face, breaking his nose. Brett’s hand is bloodied and when Becca pulls Brett away, she gets blood on her dress as well. Later, Brett sees his father with blood on his shirt and a black eye.

Sexual Content

Becca and Brett kiss a few times. And by story’s end, when they both recognize and declare their love for each other, there is a lightly sexual scene where Brett removes Becca’s shirt and the two fall, kissing and caressing, into bed. It’s implied that they continued with their intimacy, but we aren’t a part of it.

Discussion Topics


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Additional Comments

The Upside of Falling is author Alex Light’s first published book. And it’s a fun, if a bit syrupy, romantic read. That said, there’s also some sensual content here, and more foul language than you might expect as the book explores the pain connected with parental infidelity and divorce.

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Review by Bob Hoose