After Falling Apart by James Hanson, e-book, published in 2015.
Harrison is seventeen when his life falls apart. He walks away from his future as a soccer star, away from his father, away from his friends. He starts over, building himself a life far different to his previous one. He takes a photography course and moves out on his own. When he hires Chloe Smith as his gardener and house help his life takes another unexpected turn.
Told from the point of view of seventeen year old Harrison, After Falling Apart is written plainly. This may be a writing technique, placing the reader into Harrison’s narrative, but overall I found the language to be rather too simplistic for the intended audience.
This story felt a bit flat to me. It seemed to jump through time too quickly, and I wanted more explanations, details and background. Harrison’s ascent to a photography career whipped by and his relationship with Dave seemed fleeting, then they’re going into business together. It did become more interesting when Chloe and Dana entered Harrison’s life though. That all happened a bit quickly as well; he hires her one day, next day she’s bringing her daughter and he’s offering her his spare room? I suppose this could just reflect Harrison’s navieté, but I suspect that it has more to do with speeding the plot along.
I disliked Harrison as a protagonist. I did feel sorry for him growing up with an overbearing father and a semi-absent mother, but he’s a bit of a jerk. He is boring, lazy, arrogant and selfish. He walks away from his life when he’s hurting, fine, but he goes straight to his aunt’s house, and freeloads there for a bit. He doesn’t attempt to help about the house, do anything with his cousins, he doesn’t even show up for the meals his aunt makes him. Such a lack of gratitude and respect. His aunt is hurting too. He also disrespects Chloe’s wishes in regards to Dana. Life is really all about Harrison, and what he wants. I also didn’t like that Harrison begins referring to Dana as his daughter after knowing her for such a short period of time, especially without being in a relationship with her mother. I didn’t much like Claire either. She only wanted Harrison on her terms, when things were good. When things were hard she didn’t bother going after him, and nor did his friends. The soccer match was more important to them than Harrison. Most of the characters needed further development (and perhaps some interpersonal skills!). Chloe and Dana were more complex, but I still didn’t feel like I got to know them very well. Chloe was secretive and self-righteous, not to mention overly controlling of Harrison right from the start. I guess that she was doing what she though she thought was best for Dana. Dana’s condition made her a difficult character and a difficult character to write, I’m sure, but she was the only character that felt real to me.
The descriptions of the soccer matches were much like a running commentary. Using all of the player’s full names made it a bit confusing to follow, as I didn’t know where the players were, or often who was on each team. These interludes were just over-the-top detailed, which made them tedious to read. A couple of the dialogues sequences also had me a bit lost, and I had to go back and re-read them to work out who said what. I found the sections of poetry difficult to read too. I would have preferred to see these sections inset and spaced away from the main narrative, with one line of poetry per line.
I was a bit surprised when some of the characters were described simply by their skin colour. When Harrison visits the library for the first time, he encounters a “black library worker” and a “white library worker”. I don’t think that their skin colour is important to the story at all, and besides, there are certainly better ways of conveying colour than baldly stating it like this. The quality of details and descriptions are somewhat lacking throughout the story, and this let the book down.
After Falling Apart is an easy read for high school students.
*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.