Falling In. Frances O'Roark Dowell. 2010. [March 2010] Simon & Schuster. 245 pages.
On the morning this story begins, Isabelle Bean was convinced she was teetering on the edge of the universe.
Isabelle Bean is such a lonely little girl. She's always felt out of place, like she just doesn't belong. True, Isabelle is a strange child, at times. But a strangely true child. True to herself, true to who she is.
You know her, of course. Isabelle Bean is the girl who sits in the back corner of the classroom near the pencil sharpener. She isn't invisible, exactly, but she might as well be. She hardly ever speaks unless spoken to (and then only in riddles), never makes eye contact, has bangs that hang down almost to her nose so even if somebody wanted to look her straight in the eye, they couldn't.When we first meet Isabelle, she is getting in trouble. Again. She's soon on her way to see the Vice Principal. But she'll never get there. No, because some doors are magical. Some doors lead to other worlds. And Isabelle, our lonely little heroine, may just find herself falling in.
It goes without saying that very few people want to look Isabelle Bean straight in the eye.
It's not that she smells bad. She doesn't. She takes a bath every night. And it's not that she's dumb, although it's true she has a bad habit of not doing her homework except when she really feels like it, which is almost never.
And it's not that Isabelle Bean is a bully. She's never beaten anyone up or even made the smallest threat. No one is physically scared of her, except for a few of the very nice girls in Mrs. Sharpe's class, girls whose hair smells like apple blossoms and whose mothers still read them bedtime stories. These are the girls who sharpen their pencils at home so they never have to walk near Isabelle's desk. (13-14)
The world Isabelle finds herself in is strange. The children speak of a witch, not just any witch, but the witch. Someone who has been hunting and eating children for decades. There is great fear surrounding this woman, this creature. And Isabelle's quick appearance, and her red, pointy shoes lead to some distrust. Is she the witch? If she's not the witch, is she in league with the witch? It seems Isabelle has fallen into a mystery. Can Isabelle learn the truth, discover the real story?
I really loved elements of Falling In. I found the writing to be well done. I especially loved Dowell's descriptions. And I did love Isabelle Bean. But. It's not a perfect novel. I think it showed great promise in the beginning. (And it did keep me turning pages, which says something.) I just wish the ending had been slightly different. The last chapter didn't quite work for me. Overall, I did enjoy this one.
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews