Have you chosen your picks from the “must read” Summer ’09 books yet? As the lazy, hazy days of July stretch ahead into the next three or four weeks, now is the time to fall into a good book…perhaps a few you may have overlooked last year. As a matter of fact, last July Falling Under by Danielle Younge-Ullman debuted amidst a flurry of already established writers’ second or third novels. And, though you may have missed it, critics did not. Visit the Danielle Younge-Ullman Home page and you’ll read amazing praise:
“Fierce, erotic and absolutely fearless…Shocking and moving, Falling Under is as edgy as a razor blade and unlike anything you’ve ever read before.” –Dame Magazine
From Canada’s National Post: “Falling Under is one of the most compelling debut novels I have read in a long time. It is gutsy, emotional, sexually charged and, because of its second-person narrative style, unremittingly intense. Younge-Ullman writes her guts out, hurtling forward, pedal to the floor. The result is a gripping story, crackling with energy.”
“…Here’s a debut novel that delivers. Extreme, and extremely well done!”–Kim Alexander for XM Radio’s Fiction Nation
“…hard hitting and explosive, with a raw energy that left me breathless.” –Good Housekeeping.com
“Masterful writing…Younge-Ullman is a first rate storyteller…”–The Compulsive Reader
There are many more raves on that page yet you might also be interested in my presentation, reposted from July 21, 2008:
PRESENTING DEBUTANTE DANIELLE YOUNGE-ULLMAN AND FALLING UNDER
When, at an early age, Danielle Younge-Ullman began falling into books and disappearing for days at a time, she knew fiction had her hooked. So she majored in English, graduated from McGill University and spent a few character-building years on stage acting out others’ words. But Danielle finally focused on her own dramatic writing, completing three plays and two novels — one of which, Falling Under, debuts a week from tomorrow, Tuesday, July 29th.
Although the initial glance at this novel, an extraordinarily gripping, urban story that has been frequently praised/described as “edgy,” might suggest a “drama queen” at work, that’s hardly the case. Instead let’s get a more honest impression of the author from her January 24, 2008 post, How I Became a Writer by Deb Danielle Younge-Ullman. And Danielle is living her dream because she was smart enough to question herself, figure her experiences out, and then turn her thoughts to “what if not?”, creating the following backstory:
“I’m someone who made it to my mid-twenties without realizing I was a mess inside. I seemed fine but under the surface I was anxious, plagued with strange fears and making poor choices in my personal life. Around this time, I picked up The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce — a book which posits that the deepest effects of divorce are not seen until the child grows up and is faced with adult relationships. I was astounded to recognize so much of myself on the pages and could finally trace many of my seemingly ridiculous fears back to the time of my parents’ divorce. I did a lot of work on myself after that and slowly got it together. Then, when I was brainstorming for Falling Under, I began to imagine a character who struggled with the same issues, only magnified by a thousand–someone whose life had been much harder than mine, who also thought she was coping but who was, in fact, paralyzed.
“In Falling Under I told a completely different story than the one I lived—more intense, more extreme, much uglier compared to my own family’s divorce, which had a happy ending. The impetus for the character, and the idea I wanted to explore, was how hard it is to have faith—in yourself, other people or the universe—when you have proof from such a young age that everything and everyone you count on, can fall apart. A child who grows up with that knowledge makes every decision in their life based on that worldview and the consequences are fascinating, especially when that child grows into an adult.”
Fascinating, insightful and all too true for many individuals, the backstory worked perfectly as you can read in the novel’s synopsis:
“After growing up as the only child of bitterly divorced parents, Mara Foster has finally gained independence and is embarking on a promising career as an artist. But despite her success, she is fragile. Burdened by a host of fears and anxieties, Mara finds it difficult even to leave her house on most days. When Mara meets Hugo, the walls she has built around herself begin to crumble, and as she struggles to find a breakthrough both in her art and in life, she must come to terms with her own dark secrets in order to get a second chance at happiness”
However the key to success of Falling Under rests on the believability of Mara and in Give Me A Messy Hero by Deb Danielle posted December 13, 2008, the writer explains how she created — then forced — the character to develop. And, although this IS fiction, by making Mara a painter — a creative individual — Deb Danielle already had a jumpstart to a heroine with some unique traits. For as she describes and clarifies:
“It takes a particular kind of courage to make a life in the arts and the people who do it fascinate me. Also, there are so many books (and movies, etc) about people discovering their talents and going on to become great artists, and there are stories about failed artists and tortured artists…but many people are somewhere in between, living in a kind of artistic purgatory where they are almost, sort of, doing their art. They are making a living, but the work itself falls horribly short of their aspirations. They’re novelists who pay the rent writing corporate training manuals, actors working as extras or stuck in a ten year run of Cats and jazz musicians composing jingles. It’s a trap because you can tell yourself you’re making a go of it, but the truth is, you’re miserable, stuck and underachieving in the extreme. That situation seemed like a good one for my very neurotic, nearly paralyzed protagonist. I wanted to see her work her way out of it.”
Having been fortunate to read the Advanced Reader Copy of Falling Under, I readily admit that five-year old, guilt-ridden Mara captured my heart from the novel’s first sentence. And, yes, Mara almost had to be an artist in order for her damaged inner child’s rage to be channeled constructively into an adult. Also there was a familiarity about the protagonist that you may recognize as well. It’s not as though I know someone exactly like Mara, but we all have met people who are a bit too extreme — be it positive or negative — and don’t we wonder why?
Mara’s behavior and emotional turmoil is understandable, though, as she struggles against her fears in her quest for love. And Danielle shows these battles in her edgy, brave writing. Falling Under does not contain your standard chick lit romance fare; it goes beyond that with steamy sex scenes — both dark and intense. Yet nothing feels gratuitous or offensive because as the author notes:
“It’s funny, there’s very little graphic detail—I like to leave a lot to the imagination—but this is a place where I use suggestion, repetition and rhythm in the language to convey what’s happening and the effect is that people think they’ve read something much more graphic than it actually is.”
In fact, there’s so much depth to this book, Danielle even gave its title relevant meaning:
“In so many books (and in life) love is seen as the solution, but in my protagonist Mara’s case, love is a bit of a catastrophe, albeit a catalyst for change in the long run. Mara doesn’t so much fall in love as under it.”
Hopefully you’ve read the glowing praise for Falling Under and realize this is a significant dramatic debut. And what I believe is that this is how those most “talked about” literary writers begin. For the novel is “painfully breathtaking!” Painfully portraying a damaged soul, yet breathtaking in its heartfelt writing and message of hope.
Debutante Danielle Younge-Ullman’s confidently bold voice tells a tale of love in spare, crisp prose and wonderful wry humor. You can pre-order Falling Under online now or purchase it at your local bookstore next Tuesday. Wherever, however you pick up the book, fall under its spell and enjoy!