Shade and Jadis are everything to each other. They share clothes, toothbrushes, and even matching stick-and-poke tattoos. So when Shade unexpectedly joins the cheerleading team, Jadis can hardly recognize who her best friend is becoming. Shade loves the idea of falling into a group of girls; she loves the discipline it takes to push her body to the limits alongside these athletes . Most of all, Shade finds herself drawn to The Three Chloes--the insufferable trio that rules the squad--including the enigmatic cheer captain whose dark side is as compelling as it is alarming. Jadis won't give Shade up so easily, though, and the pull between her old best friend and her new teammates takes a toll on Shade as she tries to forge her own path. So when one of the cheerleaders dies under mysterious circumstances, Shade is determined to get to the bottom of her death. Because she knows Jadis--and if her friend is responsible, doesn't that mean she is, too?
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As Shade becomes engrossed in cheerleading, a sport she finds that she loves, she also becomes ingrained in the drama and volatile friendships. The 3 Chloes who had bullied her in gymnastics are having their own fights and carry friendships with an intensity of her and Jadis's. And when the lead Chloe shines her light on Shade, Shade is helpless but to follow.
Then, at Homecoming, with Jadis and all the cheerleaders together, something terrible happens - one of the cheerleaders dies. Does Shade know who she can trust?
What I loved: This was an in-depth character study of obsession, co-dependency, and unhealthy relationships, not only from the perspective of Shade/Jadis, but also the other cheerleaders. The cheerleading team is told to also be of one mind, and they work so hard together at practice that it forms a special bond. However, with the mind games others are playing and the way affection is given and withheld in turns, the dysfunctional relationships are challenging trust - something absolutely necessary when you are tossing others into the air and catching them. The relationships start out by seeming strong, but as the book continues, all the flaws are on show with dysfunctionality and danger becoming ever more apparent.
The story has a dark atmosphere that makes it read quickly, as we are introduced early to the death (albeit not who died) but then backtrack to see what happened to lead there. The book really shines a light on problematic friendships and best friend obsessions. I appreciated the raw and heaviness of the writing that convey all these emotions to the reader. The related themes about unhealthy family relationships and parenting styles was also thought-provoking, in how these can relate to the adolescent friendships. Other themes around jealousy, in-crowd, grief, love/hate, and social media were also strong throughout.
What left me wanting more: As a small point, the book felt a bit slow in places as we spend a lot of time building to events. The timeline was also not very clear (though maybe not terribly relevant), but it made it difficult to gauge some of the push-pull with changing relationships.
Final verdict: A dark and compelling YA contemporary/suspense, THE FALLING GIRLS is a raw and atmospheric read that takes the reader inside obsessive and dangerous friendships. Recommend for fans of THEY'LL NEVER CATCH US, THEY WISH THEY WERE US, and SOME GIRLS ARE.
Shade, Jadis, and the three Chloes are such complex, nuanced characters. Krischer expertly shows how passionate teen girls are, and how deep those friendships can go. Particularly at a young age, people don't always understand how to recognize codependency or how to both love someone and keep healthy boundaries. I love this exploration of intense friendship, friendship breakups, and how each character handles their own emotions when everything starts to go wrong.
Though the plot was much slower than I anticipated, I did like the murder mystery aspect. I completely fell for one of the red herrings and was surprised at who the culprit was. I also appreciated how everything was wrapped up. The characters had a huge, traumatic mess to sort through, and especially for Shade, it wasn't easy to confront some of the serious issues that needed facing, but she did it.
THE FALLING GIRLS is a deep examination of teen girl friendship that asks hard questions about relationships, boundaries, and codependency.