Books & Literature

Book Review: Falling, by T.J. Newman

THRILLER: A terrorist kidnaps pilot Bill Hoffman’s wife and children and then gives him a choice: crash his commercial flight killing 143 people, or watch his family die.

A fast-paced story with extremely high stakes that continue to soar.

On a flight travelling from Los Angeles to New York, seasoned pilot Bill Hoffman gets an unexpected FaceTime call from his wife Carrie. She appears on the screen with a suicide vest strapped to her chest and a gun to her head. The man holding the gun tells Bill that he’ll murder Carrie and their two children unless Bill crashes the plane, killing 143 souls on board.

With a pitch like that, it’s difficult to believe that 41 literary agents rejected T.J. Newman’s debut manuscript, Falling.

As is clear from the premise, this is a fast-paced story with extremely high stakes that continue to soar as the plot advances. At certain points of the narrative, you really do sit at the edge of your seat, white-knuckled and dying to know what happens next. Tension comes at the protagonist from all directions as he tries to respond to the impossible choice put in front of him, one that forces the reader to question what they’d do in the same situation. Crash the plane and save your family, or save the innocent people on board and doom your family?

Due to a combination of crisp writing, short chapters, and cliff-hangersFalling is, for the most part, a super quick read. There are some scenes that lag, weighted down with an abundance of detail. The addition of flashbacks throughout the text helps us to get to know the characters we’re supposed to be rooting for, however, this also causes the story to slow at times. But the surprising twists and suspenseful moments more than compensate for the few parts that drag. 

The heartless actions of the bad guys in the story may leave readers feeling disgusted and disheartened about the state of humanity. The inclusion of the villains’ backstory helps to build understanding and empathy around them without excusing their crimes. That said, their motives feel a little confused and stereotypical.  

A former flight attendant, Newman was able to set the aviation scenes impeccably, and her first-hand experience and knowledge allow the novel to shine with authenticity. Aside from the villains, the cast is made up of likable and relatable characters, none more so than the brave and selfless flight attendant Jo who managed to be there for Bill against all the odds.

One of Newman’s strengths is constantly pushing her characters further and further into impossible situations, boosting the pressure, the tension, and the stakes. Despite the horrendous circumstances they find themselves in, many of the characters do respond well to the pressure and act in intelligent ways, a testament to the author’s creativity.

Overall, Falling is an entertaining read that, oddly enough, is the sort of book you’d get stuck into while waiting for a flight at the airport. Given that this is a thriller centred around an act of terrorism, there are a few confronting scenes, including the opening chapter. But the pace tends to be so quick that the reader might not even fully absorb the graphic descriptions.

With a dramatic plot and easily digestible writing that is hard to put down, it’s easy to see why Falling has already created a buzz among readers that most debuts only dream of. 

Reviewed by Vanessa Elle
Instagram: @vanessaellewrites

Distributed by: Simon & Schuster
Released: 2 June 2021
RRP: $29.99

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