Falling Under by Gwen Hayes (NY: New American Library, 2011).
The gorgeous cover of this novel enticed me to carry it home from the library, and it was worth the effort! Theia Alderson's father has kept her isolated in England for much of her life. Her mother died when she was born, though for some reason Theia thinks her father blames her mother's lifestyle for her death. Now Theia and her father are living in California, and while her father still tries to control her every move, Theia has made a few friends and has slightly more freedom.
Then she sees the burning man. He falls right past her window, and she quietly, though somewhat hesistantly, runs down to his aid. He should be dead, right? But instead they have a brief conversation before he d incinerates to dust right before her eyes, leaving only a small scorch mark on the lawn. As if this isn't weird enough, Theia starts having dreams about an odd timeless place where skeletons cavort to haunting music and a devilishly handsome boy wearing an old-fashioned suit asks Theia to dance. Weirder still, the boy, Haden, shows up at her school! Theia feels so drawn to him, she doesn't know what to do. Her friends, especially Donny (short for Donatella), try to give her romantic advice, but Haden is giving out mixed signals. He even tells her to stay away from him, for her own sake.
Falling Under has some of the same evil-creature-trying-to-resist-naive-girl plot elements as Twilight, but it attempts to rise above them. Theia proves to be less naive than she initially appears, and she tries to figure out what is going on with her dreams and Haden's odd behavior. Her father's character remains largely undeveloped, but Theia's best friend Donny, is quite well done and very funny, especially her comments about the snotty rich kids, whom she calls "sneetches," after the eponymous Dr. Seuss characters who feel entitled to the best because of their star-bedecked bellies. It's a bit odd that Theia is supposedly so sheltered, but she manages to get out of the house relatively easily because of her father's long work hours. Overall, this is a good but not great read, though the cover is superb. Recommended for ages 13 & up. Mild sexual content, alcohol, creepy situations.
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