The Fall is a perfect example of how to write for young adults who find reading a challenge while still keeping the story intellectually and thematically engaging. McGowan refuses to compromise on quality, substance or the emotional challenges that he offers readers – there is no condescension or dumbing down here. The young adult reader is trusted to discriminate, to understand and to be moved, and this tragic tale of betrayal is told sparely and finely.
Mog, the narrator, tells the haunting story of how, as a schoolboy, he betrayed his own best instincts, his best friend and a boy who intruded into that friendship. The result was tragedy for all concerned. Yet implicit in the story is an even greater betrayal, the betrayal of the abilities and hopes of the boys by a school system that has written them off as uneducable, and which condones and reinforces endemic bullying. ‘Corpus Christi High School, what a heap that was […] A teacher might not like the look on your face, or how you talked, or how you sat at your desk. Some would scream at you till your face was covered in hot breath and spits.’
This book is an example of how well a really good writer can work within constraints of language, structure and create a fine work for adults, young and old, just as a poet can create a great poem within the constraints of form, rhyme and metre.