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The Free Fall

Author: Jane Ratcliffe
Genre: Young Adult
Reviewed by Susan DiPlacido

568Violet Hitchcock is a sixteen year old girl searching for what she calls "the shine". It's a rare and ethereal quality, an essence of grace. And she tends to chase after people who have it, and discard people who don't.

For her 16th birthday, Violet is given a new Honda, a beautiful car that she cherishes. However, she also rapidly matures and rebels against her incredibly rich, incredibly dysfunctional parents by descending into drugs and booze. Although she watched her older brother tank his life in the same manner, she's ultimately repeating his pattern in the face of her manic mother and detail obsessed father, neither of whom have the brains or decency to place the necessary limits on her, for fear of her turning as sour as her brother.

So Violet focuses on Henry, a leather-clad older boy, also from super- rich parents, in whom she thinks she detects the shine. Despite warnings from her friend when her life starts to deteriorate as she drinks, snorts, and sexes even more. And while scratching and dinging her new car, she soon finds herself torn between the sexy Henry and a new friend, the laid-back, wizened Rider.

Ratcliffe never backs off in The Free Fall. Not only does she loving craft a rich and thoughtful literary novel that's exceptionally well written. She's also honest in her portrayal of teenagers, including drugs, sex, liquor, and heaps of self- involvement. It's with this honest and vivid description that she can create this fast-paced and moving story, a modern coming-of-age with serious repercussions. Though some of the material may shock and scare some parents, I'd think that teenage girls in particular will not only be riveted by Ratcliffe's graceful prose, but may value the most from having read and learning from Violet.

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June 11, 2004 in Young Adults | Permalink

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