Published: July 1st, 2013
Falling Hard (Roller Girls # 1)
By: Megan Sparks
When Annie moves from London to a small town in the Midwest, she struggles to fit in. She gets off to a bad start when she makes an enemy of her school's queen bee, Kelsey. But she discovers a new passion, the exciting sport of roller derby, and makes friends with the cool and quirky girls on her team, the Liberty Belles. She also meets Jesse, the friendly boy who works at the roller rink, and Tyler, a cute, all-American sports star.
Annie is the new girl in a small, Midwestern town and not only is she dealing with going from big city to small town, but England to America. When her parents separated, Annie decided to go back to her Dad's hometown with him and help him open the café that has been his dream for quite some time now. Struggling to find her own place in a new and strange life, Annie is drawn to both cheerleading (as a substitute for gymnastics) and roller derby. Making friends with her next door neighbor Lexie, a sarcastic and individualistic artist, and Jesse, the boy who works at the roller rink, definitely keeps things interesting. When she's forced to choose between cheer and derby, can Annie make the right decision? Most importantly, can she decide to do what will make herself happy even in the face of the rules of high school popularity?
I requested this from NetGalley on a whim, and mostly because after seeing the movie Whip It in 2009, I always wanted to know more about roller derby as a sport. I thought it sounded interesting for the fish out of water aspect as well and I am a sucker for characters who move from one country to another! It ended up being younger than I expected, but I'm glad because it lent a real sweetness to the book as a whole that might not have been there if the characters had been near the end of high school, rather than the start. Annie was a really strong, interesting girl who loved her parents and didn't do stupid, clichéd 'teenager' stuff. I liked the fact that she knew what she wanted, who she was and refused to cave into the cheerleaders' bullying and shallow opinions about her friends, etc. Lexie's artwork was described great and the friendship Annie has with Lexie was very realistic for small town outcasts.
I feel like Jesse (outcast love interest) and Tyler (jock love interest) were both kind of underdeveloped and like the cheerleaders were very one-dimensional. I feel like the conflict pretty much disappeared once Annie went for the second tryout for cheerleading and the other cheerleaders stopped picking on her really out of the blue. The relationship of Annie with both her parents, especially in relation to the separation and the guilt over choosing her Dad to live with was well written. I liked how invested both parents were in her life, where in YA lit a lot of times parents are non-existent, crappy, or just plain weird/stereotypical. Sparks avoided that and made me really like Annie's Dad especially. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and found it to be a light, fluffy and fun read that is something I'd recommend for younger teens in middle school or early high school. Very cute! :)
VERDICT: 4/5 Stars
*I received an Advanced Reading E-book Copy from the publisher, via NetGalley. No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book was published on July 1st, 2013.*