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Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

*Tallulah Falls* by Christine Fletcher - young adult book review

Also by Christine Fletcher:

Ten Cents a Dance
Tallulah Falls
by Christine Fletcher
Young adult 304 pages Bloomsbury USA May 2006 Hardcover    

Christine Fletcher, a veterinarian and writer, has penned a good novel for the teenage market that partly centers on her own line of work. Tallulah Falls features a 17-year-old girl on the run, -Tallulah (originally Debbie) - who finds herself in a position she never imagined and tries to make the best of it. Like many teen books, this is a rite of passage novel.

While Tallulah is en route by car to Florida with a “boyfriend” to see her best friend, Maeve (who we slowly discover is bipolar), the teenage boy rips off all Tallulah’s money and her best clothing, leaving her stranded in a cheap motel in rural Tennessee. Then Tallulah finds a black dog who has been hit on a highway. Having a conscience, she cannot just leave the dog there and manages to get him to a veterinary clinic. The dog, later named Diesel, survives, and Tallulah finds both a temporary job at the vet’s office and a temporary home with a motherly woman who works there.

The girl had never considered working with animals: “Tallulah had never done work so physically demanding. She’d had no idea how muscular animals were under their fur, or that holding them involved strength not just in the arms but in the whole body, or that she’d have to be precise, on top of it.” She also eventually finds a boyfriend at the clinic, but that relationship becomes complicated.

However, Tallulah never had any intention of staying in this small town where she knows no one and there is nothing to do except work and take walks in an abandoned car “cemetery.” Her friend, Maeve, finally shows up, and the two make plans to take off together. I was surprised and not surprised at the story’s ending, but glad of its resolution. Tallaluh learns valuable lessons in this small rural town: notably, what she is good at and what her heart desires.

Parts of the novel seem a bit discordant, however; smoother transitions between chapters and/or scenes would have helped the reader stay more closely connected. The veterinarian’s (Dr. Poteet) relationship to Tallulah seems somewhat implausible, as does part of the relationship with boyfriend number two. Some newly-surfacing emotions or actions are left unexplained; they appear too suddenly for no apparent reason.

This book's ideal audience is probably girls 14 – 18, particularly those fond of animals or those struggling to make a life on their own without much parental guidance. The bipolar friend also should interest many readers as this diagnosis seems to be more common these days. However, even some adults will find the book captivating. Although it is clearly written for teenagers – no sex or explicit violence are included – the storyline and the empathetic characters held my interest for the most part. All in all, Fletcher’s first novel is a realistic, thoughtful book.
Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

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