Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Falling for Her, Monica Murphy’s current book, is my entree into her world. I start this review with this comment because I didn’t read the series that lead into this book, One Week Girlfriend et al. As I was reading this book, it was clear that I was missing out, BUT it didn’t do anything to deter from the essence of this story. In other words, Falling for Her is a complete standalone about two opposites attracting and their journey forward when the complications of high school make it difficult for them. As I began reading this book, it reminded me of the 90s movie, She’s All That and also the 80s Pretty in Pink or Some Kind of Wonderful. These movies are the foundation of my youth, so Falling for Her rekindled all the good feelings I have about a jerk jock hero and an introspective, intelligent unpopular heroine. With this story, Murphy reminds us that nothing is ever as it seems. In order to fully understand someone, you have to get to know them.
Now, to be honest, the hero of Falling for Her is not my favorite. Don’t get me wrong. I have no issues with an egotistical hero. Alpha-hole heroes are my favorites. However, Jake’s characterization as arrogant in that ugly high school bully way can be difficult. Even though it is made clear to the reader at some point that he never bullied certain characters, there is sometimes an unkindness and lack of empathy in him. Thankfully, Murphy balances this in two ways. For one, she opens a discussion about “oppositional defiant disorder,” a disorder conflated with ADD. This helps to explain and undermine Jake’s choices throughout the book. And the second choice Murphy makes is crafting a heroine such as Hannah. This is key and necessary for Falling for Her.
It’s clear that this book is a continuation of Murphy’s successful stories about Jake’s parents. As I didn’t read those, I’m not sure if Jake is a “chip off the old block.” Yet, Murphy’s creation of Hannah allows us to appreciate Jake’s purpose in this book. Hannah is a bit of a loner, although she isn’t lonely. She is self-contained, self-reflective, intelligent, insightful, and completely at ease with her self. In a word, she is likable in a way that Jake isn’t. Murphy carefully uses Hannah to (1) humanize Jake and (2) help him grow to be a better version of himself. Even as you read the bonus chapters, though, Jake is still $exually motivated and a bit full of himself. There is a continued promise, though, that Hannah will continue to help Jake become a better human being. For me, Hannah is the saving grace of this book. Also, thankfully, Murphy eases us into their physical relationship. This is a slow-burn relationship, which I loved because they are high school students, Hannah is inexperienced, and it keeps the reader interested in the story.
Additionally, there is a “type” for any reader in this story. There is the “mean girl,” “bully,” “jock,” “nerd,” “artist,” “cheerleader,” “gay best friend,” etc. This is every 80s and 90s romantic teen movie come to life. This feels like an allusion to those movies, and it feels as though there is a character for everyone. Beyond the idea that I could “read” my favorite movies into this story and Murphy’s characterization of Hannah, I also loved the developing friendship between Jake and Tony. Diego and Caleb are difficult guys to love. When Jake aligns himself with them, it makes it difficult to like the hero of the romance. When Jake and Tony ally themselves, it’s easier to appreciate Jake because he’s kinder and more reasonable because Tony is also both of those.
Is Monica Murphy doing anything different with this young/new adult romance, I’m not sure. Instead, I think you have to appreciate it for what it is and allow it to ignite your nostalgia for the teen romances of the past, the ones that taught you what it means to fall in love. I also think this is Murphy’s nod to her dedicated readers who fell in love with her characters through her One Week Girlfriend series. It’s always fun to return to characters you love, and Fable and Drew are very much a part of this story. If you love stories where the hot angry jock falls for the intelligent, artistic loner chick, then Falling for Her should be your read of the week.
In love and romance,