An authentic and heartbreaking story with some spice, Taylor Shaw
December 13, 2021
Eileen Merriman’s Catch Me When You Fall is a powerful story about falling in love for the first time.
Set here in Aotearoa, the story begins in the Canterbury Health Laboratories. Seventeen-year-old Alexandria Bird is waiting for a blood test when she meets Jamie Orange. Jamie turns out to be a unique individual whose perspective on life helps Alex deal with some bad news. They bond and their relationship grows quickly, perhaps too fast. The story follows the two teens as they face respective health challenges while trying to make their relationship work.
Alex Bird is a wonderful character, who in the beginning, seems resigned to her diagnosis. But when she meets Jamie his infectious, carefree spirit infuses her with hope. She begins to believe in a life beyond her illness. But appearances can be deceiving, and Jamie appears to be too good to be true. We quickly learn that he has his own health complications which mess with other aspects of his life.
We follow the two through the ups and downs of their romantic relationship which feels intensified due to the fragile state of the couple. Their journey is filled with heartache and scares, but that just makes the reader live for the sweet moments between the two. The maturity of the relationship grows quite quickly, intimacy and vulnerability tied to the figurative doomsday clock counting down above Alex’s head. This part of the story felt rushed, as though the characters pushed themselves into something they weren’t quite ready for.
One of the strengths of the story is the depth of the main characters. Both Jamie and Alex are portrayed as hopeful, headstrong teenagers with big dreams for their future. Alex wants to become a photographer and Jamie wants to be an actor. They both support each other’s dreams even if they don’t always see eye to eye when it comes to making plans. Their inflexibilities and flaws make them human and relatable, and I felt that Merriman’s overarching message was that sometimes fighting for what you want can mean fighting against your better judgement and instincts. And sometimes wanting something to work isn’t enough- there are no guarantees.
Another appealing aspect of the story was that the material is full of authentic medical terminology. As well as being a writer, Merriman is also a medical professional. Through her authentic descriptions of hospitals, medical procedures, and the conditions her protagonists face, the reader is able to realistically imagine the scenes that unfold.
The beautiful characters, heartbreaking circumstances and authentic terminology all contribute to the success of this novel and are what truly brings it to life. Catch me When you Fall is a moving story that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys ‘Grey’s Anatomy’, romance and good writing. But as Jamie and Alex sometimes end up in some spicy situations, I would suggest readers aged 16 and up.
I give it a 6/10.
- Taylor Shaw is 15 and attends Tai Wananga in Hamilton.