Falling Through Darkness
By Carolyn MacCullough
(Roaring Brook Press, Hardcover, 9780761319344, 160pp.)
Publication Date: October 2003
Other Editions of This Title: Library Binding
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Ginny can't resist daredevil Aidan--until the night he crosses the line between games and reality. She survives, he doesn't, and everyone thinks it's an accident. Lost somewhere between past and present, she meets Caleb., a much older man with secrets of his own. In richly limned scenes, Carolyn MacCullough debuts as a strong new voice in young adult literature.
Carolyn MacCullough, who lives in the Northeast, is teaching English as a Second Language to adults and children in Sicily. This is her first book.
Publishers Weekly In her first novel, MacCullough delicately deals with dark themes as her teenage heroine learns to cope with the death of her boyfriend and, also, with the realities of their often-destructive relationship. In the car with Aidan when he crashed and died, Ginny refuses to talk about the accident, even to her father or best friend. Then her father rents the apartment above their garage to a man named Caleb (when asked if he has kids, he says, "I used to. One boy. Not now"), and she finds herself spending more and more time with him. Their relationship begins to draw suspicion, and although Ginny claims that "it's not like that," her own feelings grow romantic. A series of flashbacks, some flowing into the main narrative more smoothly than others, reveal Ginny's experiences with Aidan. The plotting may be overdone in places (Ginny's self-absorbed best friend is unlikable and without dimension, for example, as is Ginny's actress mother), but the prose attains lovely, poetic moments ("I know you, I know you, I know you, you are mine," Ginny thinks when she sees Aidan waiting beneath her window). MacCullough expertly fleshes out the scenes, enabling readers to visualize the action and to intuit the implications for the characters. Realistically portraying Ginny's intense, dangerous relationship with an abused, angry boy who may have driven off that bridge purposely, and wanted-at least symbolically-to take her with him, the author tells simultaneous stories of loss and recovery. School Library Journal Ginny, 17, is living in a state of repressed emotion since the death of her boyfriend. She chain-smokes, hides from a too-friendly neighbor, and avoids both her best friend and her loving but cautious father. Interspersed with this clear and compelling portrait of depression are glimpses of her past with Aidan, from the night they first met through her realization that his distressing home life with an abusive father was the cause of his suicide-a suicide that had nearly taken her as a second victim. The book's quiet tone nicely communicates the teen's desperation, although the slow-paced revelations about her boyfriend become annoyingly predictable. A subplot involves Ginny and an older man, her father's convenient tenant whose own bereaved state is too pat. The teen characters seem genuine and varied but the girl's father is the singular rounded and interesting adult. Other adults have brief and unnecessary walk-on parts that distract from the otherwise tightly focused sense of Ginny's isolation. Overall, however, teens will relate to the protagonist's situation Booklist Ginny survived the car accident in which her boyfriend, Aidan, died. Now she's in a dark depression, overwhelmed with sorrow and guilt, remembering her four intense months with the wild, gorgeous guy who swept her away from school, home, and friends. There are secrets: how did Aidan die? But the focus here is less on story than on Ginny's seething state of mind; why is she angry? The brooding becomes a bit tiresome as she smokes and lies awake, but first-novelist MacCullough gets the 17-year-old's viewpoint, haunting memories, and interminable days on the edge absolutely right. The dialogue, especially with her concerned dad and with a kind, cute older man, is pitch perfect, whether Ginny is trying to shock, or, more often, when her words are quiet, "almost what she wants to say." As with all good writers, there's no neat, therapeutic message, and the eloquence is in the space between what the characters say and what they don't. Kirkus Reviews "An emotional page turner."
The Horn Book: "A promising debut."