Deeper We Fall (Fall and Rise, Book One)

Deeper We Fall - Chelsea M. Cameron See this review and more at Whitley ReadsA galley copy was provided free by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.This is the kind of book that’s hard for me to review, because about 95% of it was just average. Not bad. Not bad at all. But nothing to make me swoon, either, so the 5% of the book that was bad stuck and I had nothing giddy to counter it with.The characters were all good, and we had a nice variety in the cast. They each had room to let their own little quirks shine, and they didn’t feel like copies of each other just with different clothes on. I enjoyed reading about all of them, and I was especially happy to learn that Katie has her own story to tell in the next book of this series. Katie started out scaring me, if just because I thought she was going to be played as the stereotypical Mean Girl Cheerleader, presented as catty and shallow just because she likes pink. That didn’t happen, for which I was grateful.But let’s talk more about Lottie and Zan, since they were the main characters.Lottie got more praise than she deserved. Don’t get me wrong: she was a good character and a good person. But the rest of the cast had points where they went on about her like she was the Second Coming of Mary Poppins. I would have liked to see her live up to the praise a bit more, or else have people tone it down and let her actions stand alone. Also, she was quite judgmental. It didn’t pop up often, but only because she interacted so little with anyone other than her friends, but she was quick to hang very negative labels on every unnamed character she came across. Lottie also had the “being nerdy makes me special” complex going on, although it was mostly in other people telling her this was so special. “Oh my god, you enjoy classical literature and geeky things? Wow, you must be the only hipster on your college campus. No one ever sees nerds or hipsters on college campus, nope.”Like I said, she wasn’t bad, but people’s reactions to her made me roll my eyes.Zan was a great romantic lead, and I enjoyed him a lot. He had the perfect mix of mostly redeeming qualities and a few personal demons, rather than the other way around. He was a good boy gone bad who wanted to be good again, so his overcoming his issues was much more believable than many other “bad boys” that I’ve seen. He was an absolute sweetheart and about 95% of their relationship was without red flags. He was even happy to take things slow and kept asking her if she was comfortable and assuring her he’d back off she wanted. Nothing makes me swoon faster than communication and respect.That other 5%, though? There was a running bit where Zan and Lottie would tell each other to stop thinking, then kiss each other to silence. At first, it was really creepy, because it was at a moment when not thinking was a very bad idea. Then it was cute, when the situation was more light and joking. Then it was creepy again, because they kept going with it, and I generally don’t like being told that thinking is un-sexy.The setting was very narrowly focused on the cast, to the point where it felt like stuff was happening in a bubble instead of on a college campus. There were very few mentions of other students or other people, and that became especially annoying when several plot points hinged on contrived run-ins and connections. They all just kept bumping into each other, and apparently bumping into absolutely no one else at the same time.The drama was good, but the plot dragged. After everything got set up, the first third of the book was a repetition of said set-up. Lottie blames Zan and hates him, we get it. They run into each other a lot and nothing changes. We get it. Nothing changes, nothing gets added to the drama, they just got stuck in a loop for a while. Zan’s counselor felt like an authorial nudge as he kept encouraging Zan to date Lottie, based on nothing except his crush for her and despite knowing the full situation and Lottie’s feelings about him. In fact, a lot of characters acted like they’d read the script, calling out the romance before it started. That’s acceptable in some cases, but here, Lottie had legitimate reasons to dislike Zan, so it wasn’t the old “you’re just in denial because you like him” case. Another point of dragging was the last 10% of the book, which was almost pure falling action and wrap-up, when we hardly needed it to drag on that long.Also, Zan’s problems were implied to be completely under control after hooking up with Lottie, instead of just on the mend. Love is awesome, but it doesn’t actually cure self-harm and drug addiction.On the whole, it could have been shorter and tighter, but it was still a sweet romance and some solid drama/personal redemption story.