After a Fall
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Reading Challenges: #ContRom2017, #DiverseReads2017, Shelf Love
Nikki made a mistake. Nikki stood by and allowed her friends to post photos to her Facebook account with the intention of publicly shaming one of their classmates. Her house. Her party. Her account. Nikki is the sole culprit in the eyes of the school and is expelled. But it's not over. Her father won't look her in the eye, her mother doesn't trust her, and she is an outcast at her new school. All seems hopeless, until she meets Pax, a wheelchair rugby player with a contagious smile and a forgiving heart. This is a second chance Nikki cannot pass up.
I loved Cuzzo's last book, How to Say I Love You Out Loud, and I had great expectations for this book. Once again, Cuzzo delivered a beautiful story laced with some pain, life lessons, and lots of love.
I was reading the reader letter at the end of the book, and found Cuzzo's argument for why she chose to write about the aggressor of a bullying incident versus the victim quite interesting, and I am glad to chose to write about Nikki, because this challenged me as a reader. Thanks to Cuzzo's ability to craft characters, I did grow to care deeply for Nikki, and though I understand that silence is acceptance, I still felt like the situation was unjust. Nikki's excommunication was severe. She paid the price over and over and over again until Pax. Pax believed in second chances, and allowed Nikki to redeem herself. Everyone should be so lucky to have a Pax in their lives.
"'I'm a firm believer in new beginnings. Looking back all the time...It really starts to hurt your neck.' He shrugs carelessly. 'If you don't want to be defined by your past, you shouldn't have to be.'"And now for my favorite part of the story - Pax. This guy was the stuff that book boyfriends are made of. He was Nikki's champion, compassionate, patient, understanding, giving, and generally looked on the brighter side. It was a hard fought journey from his post-accident self to where he was in this story, but he was getting to that place of acceptance. He was accepting that his old life was gone, and he was helping Nikki get there too.
"'With all due respect, sir,' Pax begins quietly, maintaining eye contact all the while, 'did you love her because she was flawless, or did you love her because you loved her?'"And what's a Swoon Reads without the swoon. I am feeling so many emotions trying to describe the joy I felt as the romance between Pax and Nikki blossomed. Pax rolled in as Nikki was receiving another public tongue lashing. He gave her comfort and friendship, but he did not anticipate what evolved from there. This relationship had some bumps, which was probably very realistic. Pax was a paraplegic, and this came with other medical issues, as well as, limitations due to how the rest of the world isn't necessarily accessible. I appreciated that Cuzzo showed us that other side of Pax, and gave us some insight into the affects this had on his relationships. But in the end, they were beautiful together.
"We kiss and we kiss, and every now and again, my legs bob forward, grazing his, or float out behind me, useless and unimportant. Legs don't matter anymore. Pax's arms are enough to keep me afloat."At the end of this story, Nikki was not the same girl she was "before". She had grown and change, and this metamorphosis was due to Pax. He was able to help her see things differently, and nurtured her and challenged her, as she grew and changed.
"The literal translation of Pax, I learned, is peace."Once again, Cuzzo delivers an impactful story, that doesn't gloss over the issues. She shows the good, the bad, and the ugly side, but still manages to leave me with a story that leaves my heart bursting with joy.
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