Book Review: Fallen Leaves by Tessa Emily Hall

Selena Taylor thought her only worry this fall was starting her junior year at a new arts school in North Carolina, miles away from home. But when she finds out her mom could graduate from rehab sooner than expected—even worse, she could work for her former nothing-but-trouble boss—Selena’s determined to create a new life for them. Back in her childhood Kentucky hometown.

Step one? Track down her dad and brother that she hasn’t seen in eight years. Her anxiety is put to the test, though, when she unveils a truth that could threaten her dreams. Add to that an art competition that pushes her outside of her comfort zone and a girl who seems determined to come between Selena and her hopeful boyfriend.

Soon Selena must decide whether or not to continue her search for her dad and brother. But is there any hope that the ruins of her broken family could be resurrected? And how could God possibly have a purpose in the midst of these changing seasons?

I don’t read a whole lot of contemporary fiction, but almost every time I do I wonder why I don’t. One of my favorite things about books is that they transport you to a different place, and with contemporary fiction that place is often somewhere you feel like you could actually have a chance of going, particularly when that place is written well. Lake Lure was definitely written well. Tessa did a wonderful job of capturing the inviting atmosphere of Brewer’s coffee shop, the mixture of fun and nervousness in Mr. Lovett’s class, the almost-emptiness of the Huitt home. But what really brought these settings to life wasn’t the settings themselves or the descriptions Tessa used. What brought these settings to life was the characters that inhabited them.

I tend to have no particular love for main characters–I’m not sure why. I think it’s just a quirk of mine–but Selena was engaging to me. I felt like her anxiety could have been explored a bit more deeply, and the feelings that related to her past issues, but overall I was able to enjoy her character and see what made her tick. Plus, there were times I related to her in really specific ways, which happens very rarely.

Austin was wonderful. He was written very well, and I loved how Tessa brought out his personality and his values through the way he treated the other characters. (That birthday scene near the end… I just loved him all the more after that.) He’s almost exactly what I look for in a guy in real life.

Madaleigh was also great. I loved her personality, her passion for art and for Christ, her view on brokenness… She was possibly my favorite character. (I’m slightly bummed she wasn’t a bigger part of the last few chapters of the book.) Her friendship with Selena was one of my favorite things about the book.

I’ll stop there with the characters, since I could comment on almost every one of them, and just say that all of the characters were wonderfully done. They were all incredibly distinct and engaging and sharp, and I even enjoyed reading the less likable characters because they were still so well-written. (Except Richard. No amount of good writing could make me enjoy reading about him.)

The plot and theme were also well-done. (Almost no part of this book wasn’t well-done.) The theme was woven throughout the whole story beautifully, and the conclusion was mostly satisfying. I wish the bulk of the book had included more references to Christ and finding peace in Him, I felt like it was a little light-handed for a lot of the book, but the pieces nearer the end struck a good balance for me. (Again, the birthday scene. I loved that scene so much.) I felt like the beginning of the book had a lot of references to how Selena’s life had changed the summer before and not so much showing that change. I also feel like Selena had too easy a time finding peace in God near the end (I say this as a Christian who struggles with trusting God and finding peace in Him); I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a real-life Christian find it so easy to place things in God’s hands, so I feel like that transition was a little too smooth. But that could be a character difference between me and Selena.

Overall, I think Fallen Leaves is definitely worthy of five stars. It’s a beautiful book, inside and out, and very well-written.

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6 thoughts on “Book Review: Fallen Leaves by Tessa Emily Hall

    1. Neither have I. I didn’t realize it was a sequel to Purple Moon when I volunteered for the blog tour, but it read just fine as a standalone. (Still, I’m sure it’s even better with the first book as background.)
      I hope you enjoy them!

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