The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo

The breakout novel from the critically acclaimed author of the short story collections Who I Was Supposed to Be and Why They Run the Way They Do—when a middle school girl is abducted in broad daylight, a fellow student and witness to the crime copes with the tragedy in an unforgettable way.

What happens to the girl left behind?

A masked man with a gun enters a sandwich shop in broad daylight, and Meredith Oliver suddenly finds herself ordered to the filthy floor, where she cowers face to face with her nemesis, Lisa Bellow, the most popular girl in her eighth grade class. The minutes tick inexorably by, and Meredith lurches between comforting the sobbing Lisa and imagining her own impending death. Then the man orders Lisa Bellow to stand and come with him, leaving Meredith the girl left behind.

After Lisa’s abduction, Meredith spends most days in her room. As the community stages vigils and searches, Claire, Meredith’s mother, is torn between relief that her daughter is alive, and helplessness over her inability to protect or even comfort her child. Her daughter is here, but not.

Like Everything I Never Told You and Room, The Fall of Lisa Bellow is edgy and original, a hair-raising exploration of the ripple effects of an unthinkable crime. It is a dark, beautifully rendered, and gripping novel about coping, about coming-of-age, and about forgiveness. It is also a beautiful illustration of how one family, broken by tragedy, finds healing.


Song For This Book: Left Behind from Spring Awakening
Why? While the song about a different sort of situation, left behind is a good way to describe Meredith in this book.


I received a copy of this book from Simon & Schuster Canada in exchange for an honest review.

Stories about missing children or missing people are fairly common these days. We’re all fairly familiar with them, and have experienced them in multiple formats, from television to books to films. But these films always focus on the child that’s missing, the immediate family of the missing person, and the investigation. But what happens to the other people who are present, but who were left behind?

I never really gave the bystanders in the abduction stories a second thought until I picked up Perabo’s novel. Lisa Bellow is the girl who was taken in this book, but the story is about Meredith instead – the girl who was there, but who was left behind. It’s a beautiful story of survivor’s guilt, and how a missing person’s case can affect more than just the immediate family and those who know them well. Meredith and Lisa hated each other, and yet, Lisa going missing has a huge effect on Meredith.

This book alternates between two perspectives, Meredith and her mother, Claire. It’s absolutely fascinating to read about how both of these people struggle with what has happened, and try to come to terms with the whole thing.

The Good Points of The Fall of Lisa Bellow:

All of the characters, no matter how major or minor they may be, are incredibly well developed. You could write a full character sketch on each one, and still have more that you could talk about. It makes them feel so real, and makes it so easy to connect with them, even if you’re not a parent or a teenager.

For such a heavy, serious topic, this book is incredibly easy to read. Perabo’s writing flows so well, and you’ll fly through dozens of pages before you even realize it. But it’s easy flow doesn’t take away from the heavy, serious topic either. It’s really the perfect balance of each.

I loved the way that Perabo portrayed her teenagers. So many authors like to make their teens older and more mature than they should be, but Perabo doesn’t do this. She creates real teens, who like to pretend they’re all grown up, but sometimes still pull out their old animal figurines, who can’t see things the way adults might, and who don’t have half a clue what’s going on most of the time without realizing it. It’s refreshing to get such an honest portrayal for a change.

The Downsides of The Fall of Lisa Bellow:

Maybe it’s because so many stories that are focused on the person gone missing, I wanted more information on Lisa and what happened to her. Even if it were something as simple as a news article about it here and there, maybe an epilogue saying what happened next. I know this book focused on Meredith, but I wanted a little more on the other side too.

There were a few run-on paragraphs throughout this novel, and quite a few times where Perabo seemed to get off topic. Some parts of the story, especially when we were getting lots of inner thoughts of one character or another, where it just went everywhere before getting to the point. It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it didn’t add to the story either.

All in all, this book was great. It was something I had never even thought to look for, but now I’m fascinated by the people who were ‘left behind’ after a crime. It’s an easy read, but don’t think that you’re aren’t getting into heavy stuff. If you’re a fan of Jodi Picoult, crime and/or abduction stories, or reading about nightmare situations for teenagers, you should definitely give this book a go.

This book hits the shelves on March 14th! Be sure to check it out!


3 thoughts on “The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo

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