Lucinda (Luce) Price has always been a little strange. She sees malevolent shadows that other people can’t see. After a mysterious fire in which the boy she was with died, she is sent to a reform school in Savannah. On her first day she falls for a gorgeous but aloof boy who seems to want nothing to do with her. His name is Daniel Grigori (no kidding). But Cam, the other gorgeous (and very popular) guy at school, immediately starts pursuing her. Luce is confused by her feelings toward Daniel and alarmed that the shadows are appearing more frequently. With the help of a classmate, she sets out to discover who Daniel Grigori really is.
There’ve been a slew of these sorts of YA paranormal books published in the last few years. Most of them have a single word for a title and involve gorgeous immortal teenagers. There’s usually a love triangle, some incompetent adults, and a school setting. I’m not too keen on the whole genre, but I have an audio copy of this one and the cover is pretty.
How does Fallen stand up? Well, the audio production by Listening Library is excellently narrated by Justine Eyre, and she is probably the only reason I kept listening to Fallen. Luce is not an unlikable protagonist, but she doesn’t do much other than chase Daniel. Even though there’s a supernatural reason why she loves him, it’s still unpleasant to watch her do almost nothing but obsess over him. She tells us how smart and studious she is, but she never proves it. This is a common problem with YA paranormals. (Authors, it’s not enough to tell us your heroine is smart — please show us!)
And here’s another common problem: Why on earth are ancient powerful immortals masquerading as angsty teenagers and choosing to subject themselves to high school classrooms? And, in this case, why are they willingly locked up in a strict gated reform school with a dress code and cameras watching them all the time? Obviously the answer is that the author is trying to appeal to teenagers. It must be working for the target audience, but at my age, I just can’t help but see the glaring ridiculousness of this and it undermines the whole premise. It seems that people who’ve been alive for hundreds of years would have matured beyond adolescence and would choose not to be imprisoned with a bunch of sulky teenagers.
In Fallen there were a lot of other little things that just didn’t seem reasonable — Luce’s parents dropping her off at the school without going in to see what it was like, Luce not asking questions when someone just exploded her entire worldview, others keeping important information from her when it would have made sense to tell her, students sneaking alcohol and all sorts of contraband into the school but not thinking to get a cell phone, girls and boys living across the hall from each other in a reform school, Luce passively letting a murderer tie her to an altar… I could go on.
Unfortunately, Lauren Kate did very little with her setting. I’m familiar with Savannah — it’s a gorgeous sultry city steeped in Southern tradition, but barely a hint of this came out in Fallen. I started to wonder if Lauren Kate had ever been to Savannah. This setting had so much potential — what a shame to miss that opportunity!
Lastly, it’s clear by the end of Fallen that this series is purely a romance. Not much happens other than Luce chasing Daniel and Cam chasing Luce. At the end there’s a weak Heaven vs. Hell sub-plot that’s revealed, but I suspect that it’s only there to prop up the romance.
For teens who don’t worry too much about plot and just want to read a romance with beautiful people in it, or for adults who thought that reform school was the best time of their lives, Fallen will do fine (try the audiobook). For the rest of you, I recommend skipping Fallen.