Diversion Press (2009)
Reviewed by Maggie Desmond-O’Brien (age 14) for Reader Views (9/09)
Evan Falcon is your average small-town teenager with a fetish for photography—until his family needs to move to the bustling metropolis of LincolnHeights for his dad’s work. Now just when he thought he knew who he was, Evan is thrust into the big-city world of drugs, smoking, dating, and a class size of hundreds. Even worse, now his best friend won’t talk to him and he thinks his mom is having an affair. This book is a surprisingly gritty tribute to all the small joys and growing pains of teenage life as we watch the new, urban Falcon spread his wings.
While this book was undeniably enthralling, I was also left just a little nonplussed. The narrative occasionally skimmed over just the parts I wanted to read, and the story arc was a little flat. I didn’t see the characters develop, I was told that they developed and that was that. The shock factor also got a little over-the-top—while I for one believe that some profanity in a teen novel is an excellent tool for grabbing the attention, by the end of the book I was barely batting an eyelid at an F-bomb tirade.
Evan was an interesting and believable narrative voice, and his experiences with his parents will probably be familiar to any teen or adult the world over today, but his interactions with his classmates never seemed to have the spark that makes a story work. From Roger, the misled loser who hates to see anyone else happy, to Maya, Evan’s smart, passionate girlfriend, everyone is just a tad underdeveloped and motives aren’t always clear. Also, while the lack of a clear antagonist is obviously realistic, it makes it hard to be anything but confused as to what, exactly, Evan is trying to accomplish. I never thought I’d say this, but I actually believe that this book would have been better had it been longer—with more room for self-exploration and Caloyeras’s refreshingly bold honesty, I think I would have enjoyed it much more. We don’t know enough about our protagonists to understand why and how they do what they do, and that kind of story always leaves me frustrated.
Finally, despite the fact that my review copy was the final book and not the ARC, there were multiple grammar and spelling errors, and Caloyeras’s grammatical style was odd and sometimes hard to understand: commas floated around between words without any apparent rhyme or reason in their placement, and sentences tended to run on a bit, just like this one is doing.
All that said, though, did I mention it was enthralling? As a teenager, I must say that despite its flaws this book spoke to me in a way that a book hasn’t for awhile. The “deeper” messages are hard to find, but this book is the perfect angst novel. For any teenager who believes that adults don’t understand them, they’ve found the exception in Caloyeras’s on-the-level voice without a trace of condescension. That was what made “Urban Falcon” a treat, and I look forward to Jennifer Caloyeras’s future work.