cover image Falling


Doug Wilhelm. Farrar Straus Giroux, $17 (241pp) ISBN 978-0-374-32251-9

Alternating narratives by two 15-year-olds in love form the structure for Wilhelm's latest novel. Matt Shaw is a basketball phenom who stuns his family, school and hometown by not trying out for the ninth-grade team. Matt keeps his reasons for his decision-and just about everything else-close to his chest and spends hours after school walking the town alone, listening to rap music on his headphones. The perpetually inquisitive Katie Henoch attends Jeffords Junior High with Matt and is ""the queen of the unanswerable question"" to her group of close friends, from whom she feels increasingly distant. Katie and Matt unknowingly meet in a teen chat room and discuss the larger issues that trouble them. Katie realizes who she's speaking with, and after confronting Matt, a romantic relationship is cautiously born. Matt's thoughts and speech are as concise as the rap lyrics he adores, whereas Katie effusively races ahead of herself. (""Why did he quit playing?... And what did he do instead? Was it dangerous? Was he dangerous? And couldn't she maybe use a little danger in her life?"") Readers discover that Matt's older brother Neal is languishing at home, consumed by heroin addiction; additionally, Neal has opened his family's home to a stream of teenage users as he begins to sell the drug. Wilhelm's writing is suffused with foreboding and this fast-paced novel will likely seize readers' emotions right through its genuinely upsetting finale. Ages 12-up.