Monday, March 8, 2010

Review of Freefall by Ariela Anhalt

Freefall by Ariela Anhalt
Luke Prescott has been disillusioned and angry at the world since his father committed suicide. However, readers are only given veiled references to the suicide at first. Luke attends an exclusive prep school in California and rooms with the popular, Hayden Applegate, who has problems of his own. Both are juniors and members of the school’s fencing team, of which Hayden is the captain. It has been a tradition for new varsity fencing team members to jump from a cliff near the campus into a pond as an initiation ritual. When Russell, a new student at the school, steals Hayden’s girlfriend and threatens his leadership status on the fencing team, Hayden starts thinking about revenge. Against his better judgment, Luke agrees to accompany Russell and Hayden to the cliff for Russell’s initiation. However, Russell doesn’t end up jumping; he is pushed by Hayden. When the push results in Russell’s death, Luke wrestles with his emotions trying to decide if Hayden’s action was deliberate or an accident. The decision must be made soon because Luke has been called to testify at Hayden’s trial.

This is the first novel for Ariela Anhalt, and she shows real talent. She is able to get into the mind of male teenagers and fluently convey their thoughts. The characters are well-developed, and the plot flows easily from page to page. Hayden is portrayed as the school’s egocentric alpha-male, Luke as his foil side-kick, and Russell as the antagonistic newcomer. There is another whole group of minor characters who make up the fencing team, schoolmates, and family members of these boys, and they are just as well-developed as the major players. The courtroom scenes are well-written and gripping. I recommend this novel for upper high school students and public libraries.