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Backlist Love: The Fall by Anthony McGowan

The Fall by Anthony McGowan

The story
Mog is a borderline loser, clinging to the social fringe in a tough school. His friend Chris is just cool enough ”“ or perhaps dangerous enough ”“ to guarantee Mog safety from the bullies by association. But then Chris befriends Duffy, essentially the poster child for losers and victims. Wishing to protect his own precarious social standing, and jealous of Chris’s kindness to Duffy, Mog sets Duffy up to take a fall. This act poisons Mog and Chris’s friendship and seems to break something in Chris. In an attempt to heal the breach, Mog and Chris take off on a rat-hunting expedition with a crossbow, but the final outcome of the day will cast a shadow over both their lives.

Why I love this book
On one level The Fall has little incident, and none of it major. A boy attempts to jump a stream using an old fridge to boost him across, but fails, falls in the water and gets wet. Two teenagers go out with a crossbow to shoot rats; they shoot a fox instead. But in the context of the novel, the literal fall into the beck and the more symbolic fall from grace and innocence that comes with the killing of the fox are invested with enormous import for the characters whose lives they touch.

The Fall tends to divide reviewers. Inis Magazine said ”˜the young adult reader is trusted to discriminate, to understand and to be moved, and this tragic tale of betrayal is told sparely and finely.’ Reading Matters said ”˜the book has a sense of reality that is quite disturbing… A challenging read but very deep and very worthwhile.’ But a blogger or two found the book lacking in plot, or more specifically resolution. At school I half-remember reading a Tennessee Williams quote to the effect that that writers err too much towards ”˜significant’ action, affecting too much change on their characters, and that life doesn’t happen that way. It seems to me that The Fall makes that very point ”“ that events that are of huge significance to our own lives may seem quite trifling on the face of it, and people don’t so much change as become somehow more the same.

We published The Fall in the summer of 2011, which was quite a purple patch in our publishing ”“ Andy Stanton’s Sterling and the Canary appeared around the same time, as did the first of Chris Bradford’s Ninja books. I was quite new to Barrington Stoke and ”˜the short novel’ and I was properly obsessed with The Fall. As it happened, a good friend of mine was at that time writing a song about a herring girl that would go on to win the BBC 2 New Song award the following year, which was a saving grace as she and I spent many hours talking about the wonders of short forms while everyone around us was glad to be spared. Hurray for random linkage; you can listen to The Herring Girl here, you can buy The Fall here or read the first chapter below.

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