At an elite boarding school in Canada, we meet Noel, a shy eighteen-year-old who hasn’t ever really made any friends at school, and his roommate Julius, one of the most popular kids at the school. Over the course of their senior year, they become almost like friends, although it’s clear that Julius is still far above Noel in social status with his many friends and gorgeous girlfriend, Fall (short for Fallon). It becomes clear that Noel is developing a major crush on Fall, and harbors both feelings of jealousy for Julius and a deep desire to be his best friend. When tragedy strikes towards the end of the novel, both Julius and Noel become desperate for answers.
Fall is a tense novel, filled with interesting characters and an even more interesting plot (of which I was cautious to reveal nothing important, hence the summary that tells you nothing significant). Noel is the typical “loser” in high school, Julius is the typical “cool kid” and yet somehow they end up being roommates. How the two of them form a loose bond is interesting to read about and definitely believable. It’s clear how when both of their guards are down, and the expectations the world throws at them are outside of their bedroom door, they have an easy way together, a comfortability about their relationship that frees them from outside social constraints.
I happen to love boarding school books (Prep, Looking for Alaska, and The Secret History all come to mind) and Fall’s boarding school ambiance did not disappoint. While I would probably hate going to boarding school myself, reading about it always thrills me. Something about the angsty teenagers all living together, trying to forge relationships while not having ANY personal space whatsoever, and for some reason something mysterious always happens in these books – all these factors were at play in Fall.
Noel and Julius both take part in telling this story, and McAdam wrote both characters extremely well. Julius was the perfect hormone-driven teenager, completely in love with Fall but also conflicted in so many other aspects of his life, and his voice reflected that so well. He was blissfully ignorant of Noel’s true thoughts and feelings, typical (I think) for a high school jock whose major concerns are having fun and getting laid. And Noel was almost emotionless, with a detached voice despite his obvious infatuation with both Fall and Julius, to a different degree. Both guys were written perfectly, and their different voices really made the novel for me.
I have to be honest when I say that the ending to Fall was my least favorite thing about it. I feel like the book sort of fell apart at the end, yes things made sense, but I’m not sure that I was happy with how everything ended up. The ending was slightly ambiguous and I didn’t really enjoy that, I wanted more of a concrete ending to things. No, the ending did not ruin the rest of the book for me, but it did put a damper on my overall experience of reading the novel.
Fall is an atmospheric, literary mystery starring two high school boys who couldn’t possibly be more different. Add that to the setting of a boarding school, and the book becomes a real winner. Fans of literary fiction will be pleased with this book.