We Little Islanders were delighted to see a glowing review of Sheena Wilkinson’s latest YA novel, Still Falling in the latest issue of Books Ireland, the national magazine for publishing in Ireland. At 900 words it’s a wonderfully in-depth review, exploring the characters and themes of the novel in detail. We think it might also be the longest review any Little Island title has ever received, which is testament to the depth of Wilkinson’s text and how much there is to discuss. It’s great to see such a thorough discussion of Still Falling, but also to see such prominence given to a young adult title in a national magazine like Books Ireland, as it reflects the growing attention being paid to the genre of YA fiction.
In her review, Síne Quinn praised Still Falling as ‘a complex, nuanced take on teenage romance.’ The novels tells the story of the unlikely friendship between Esther and Luke, which soon develops into something more. Quinn’s review explores the insecurities of both protagonists and how they view themselves as outsiders. Luke is embarrassed by his epileptic fits and haunted by his troubled past. He doesn’t feel he deserves Esther’s love. Esther sees herself as a reject, otracised from the class because of her father’s role as a pastoral care teacher. She is struggling to find who she is, smothered by her over-protective parents and disillusioned with their religious beliefs.
‘This well-crafted narrative follows the highs and lows of first love through the first-person accounts of two well-drawn and complex protagonists, Luke and Esther. Wilkinson has created not just one but two tenacious yet anxious narrators, both very different but equal in their admixture of focus, ambition and low self-esteem.’
Quinn compares Still Falling to Taking Flight and Grounded, Sheena Wilkinson’s previous YA titles (both also published by Little Island). Like Still Falling, these are gritty contemporary YA novels set in Belfast and Taking Flight also employs alternating point of views in the narration. ‘Class systems and the layers of politics and prejudice behind them are a recurring theme in all of Wilkinson’s young adult novels so far […] A gifted storyteller, Wilkinson excels in illuminating how damaging prejudice can be not only to an individual’s personal growth but also to a community as a whole. Though the story is set in Belfast, the issues raised occur globally and are particularly pertinent to this age group.’
The review explores the many themes of Still Falling, such as self image, prejudice, the experiences of teenagers in the care system and child abuse. As Quinn comments, ‘Wilkinson’s writing never shies away from gritty or hard-hitting themes.’ These issues are handled in a sensitive manner, and are appropriate to Wilkinson’s story. ‘The darker issues raised in the novel are neither sensational nor pruient but are treated with honesty and sensitivity.’ Quinn notes Phil Earle’s Saving Daisy and Being Billy as two other YA novels dealing with vulnerable teenagers in the care system. Another notable example is Siobhán Dowd’s Solace of the Road.
Quinn concludes her review stating that ‘Still Falling is a memorable love story of its time but will resonate with perpetuity. Another outstanding novel from Sheena Wilkinson.’
Read this lovely review in full in the May/June 2015 issue of Books Ireland.
By Jenny Duffy