The Monday Book: A STEP TOWARD FALLING by Cammie McGovern

This is what’s known as a high-concept book. In other words, the premise that makes the plot unfold is a little bit complicated.

Belinda is a special needs girl getting ready to graduate high school. She has a fixation on Pride and Prejudice and a mild crush on a football player who dances with her at a BEST BUDDIES required event. (In other words, the football players have to go to a dance for special needs kids. Yeah, no worries there.)

Belinda winds up under the bleachers at a high school football game trying to see her crush, but meets someone else instead. And as that meeting goes very South, all the kids who see her, who see what’s happening, ignore it.

Which lands two of them in community service hours working with, yes, you guessed it, the special needs day program for adults. Where they get their lives handed to them in pieces as they realize what jerks they actually are. (Spoiler alert: there is redemption.)

A lot of the subtleties of the plot are driven by Emily, one of the two, being an academic nerd and Lucas, the other, being a football player. Cue the violins. The story is told from Emily and Belinda’s points of view in turns, and Emily spends a lot of time trying to unravel how stuck she is in stereotyping people.

The do-gooder pair wind up holding a play with scenes from PnP for the day care center, and that’s the culminating conflict of the book, which is more about exploring the shortcomings of policies for people like Belinda. The author is the founder of a non-profit for parents of special needs kids, and a lot of information comes out in the fiction.

Comes out well, I hasten to add. This is not a sermon cloaked in a story; it’s a story that delivers a good sermon. Belinda is a compelling character and her voice as a narrator is the best thing about this book. Emily and Lucas are interesting but a bit more predictable. The scene where Belinda walks away from Emily the first time she attempts an “apology” is wonderful. And the insights into a world too often hidden from view are meaningful. Thoroughly recommend this book, which provokes both laughter and thought.

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