Though wonderfully written, The Fall of Lisa Bellow is not what I expected it to be. That isn’t to say that it isn’t a good read, — it most definitely is — but because it was not as I had envisioned it, it took me much longer to get through the book than I had anticipated.
After school one day, thirteen-year-old Meredith Oliver decides she is in dire need of a large root beer as a reward to herself for completing her test in Algebra II. While there, she encounters Lisa Bellow, a popular girl she’s grown up with and cannot stand. Any interaction that might have occurred between the two is cut short when an armed and masked man comes into the sandwich shop to rob it. Then, as an afterthought, he kidnaps Lisa, leaving Meredith and her family to deal with the trauma.
The Oliver family is horrible, though. Possessing attitudes that are largely and entirely focused on themselves, the main characters from whose perspective we read, Meredith and her mother, Claire, are absolutely unlovable. While not on the level of Gone Girl bad, they do serve as stark reminders of how low humans can sink in their day to day interactions. I do feel that Perabo fairly accurately portrayed the mind of a thirteen-year-old girl, at least, from the mindset of what those my age may have experienced in school. I can’t really speak for today’s children, as, contrary to the belief of our own parents, that things never change, we all know they do. In that regard, the slut-shaming was almost unbearable. It seemed the only reason Meredith had to dislike Lisa was her good looks and poor attitude, to which she responded by constantly referring to her in derogatory terms. Personally, I cannot recall referring to girls in my eighth grade class as sluts: in fact, I don’t even remember which girls were popular and pretty.
Given that a young girl has been kidnapped, as a reader, you might expect the story to also focus a bit on finding said victim. Instead, it takes a unique approach by focusing not on the victim and her family, but rather the girl that was not kidnapped and her own, which is far more dysfunctional than it might seem. Some of that can be attributed to the two tragedies they’ve faced back to back, while the rest likely has to do with how the characters simply are. The plot follows Meredith’s changes through what she has experienced, providing readers with a coming-of-age story, rather than something that is suspenseful. There’s really not a whole to guess, and even as the book comes to a conclusion, there are questions that are left unanswered, issues that are unaddressed, and ultimately, bridges that are not mended.
The Fall of Lisa Bellow is beautiful, even if it isn’t really much of a suspense. If you’re looking for something on the more tame side of abduction tales, it fits that bill. I would like to thank NetGalley, Simon & Schuster, and the author for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.