Letter Essay #3 // Matt

Image result for falling over sidewaysI recently finished reading a 257 page realistic fiction novel titled “Falling Over Sideways” written by Jordan Sonnenblick, a previous New York native & English teacher who was inspired to pursue a full-time writing career by one of his students’ brother’s who was diagnosed with cancer, hence his first novel “Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie”. Falling Over Sideways is one of Sonnenblick’s newest books being released in late September of 2017. I was attracted to this book because I have really enjoyed reading some of Sonnenblick’s other novels and wanted to read something I could really fall into and not feel like I have to read it.

In this book, Claire, the main character, a 13 year old girl thinks her life couldn’t possibly get any worse because she isn’t progressing in dance, she has to deal with a jerk on a daily basis, and is desperately trying to improve her social life, which may I mention is a joke, and impress her parents who won’t stop obsessing over their perfect son Matthew. Matthew, Claire’s brother maintains a 4.0 GPA, has a popular girlfriend, and is the star of his soccer team. Did I mention he is about the most popular kid in his school. When Claire decides that it doesn’t get any worse than this, her dad’s health takes a rapid decline and Claire has to find a way to help out over the next few months while her father “recovers”.

I was surprised when Claire’s dad obviously wanted to be with her, she decided to avoid him. This really surprised me because before her dad got sick, they did nearly everything together, like go to the YMCA pool and free play for hours until the location closed (pg. 2).

I liked the way the author showed at the end how Matthew cares about Claire when he says that he will do the father-daughter dance with her and he starts freaking out because he doesn’t wan’t to screw this up for Claire, and he asks her, “I’m serious, what if I suck?”. That’s when Claire realized Matthew really did care about her.

I think the character development in this book was kind of slow, I wish the author had told more about how the other characters (Mom, Matthew) felt about their dad’s stroke. This would’ve helped me establish a deeper connection with the two during the book.

This passage really stood out to me because while Claire is at her low, her mother (surprisingly) tells her how much of a help she’s been with her dad’s stroke. Sonnenblick writes:

” One day when I was getting set up to play [saxophone] for my father before dinner, my mother called me up to talk with her in the kitchen. ‘Claire,’ she said, ‘I don’t know what you’ve been doing to motivate him, but its been miraculous. Everybody is noticing: the physical therapist, the occupational therapist, the speech therapist. He’s been taking walks around the block the past few mornings, by himself. That’s a first. He’s even starting to work on learning to read again. For a long time, he wouldn’t even look at words on a page. Oh, honey! I just wanted to tell you how proud I am of you. I know we haven’t gotten to spend much time together this year, and I haven’t been telling you this from day to day, but you are doing an awesome job.’ ‘Of what?’ She thought for a moment. ‘Of becoming you.’ Then she took me into her arms and gave me a bone-crushing hug.” (pg. 234)

What I really enjoyed reading in this passage was how for the majority of the book, the author hasn’t really gone into much detail of Claire and her mother’s relationship, probably because they aren’t extremely close, and all of a sudden there is this huge acknowledgement that comes straight out of thin air that was given to Claire. I really think the author did a great job holding out just for this moment. I would probably rate this book 6/10 because it really does have some great writing techniques, and a variety of them! But it really just didn’t pull me in really well like I had wished, it was like I almost wanted to start reading another book.


Matt Tortorelli

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