Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Where She Fell

Where She Fell

Kaitlin Ward
For ages 12 and up
Scholastic, 2018   ISBN: 978-1338230079

Eliza is fascinated by geology and she loves exploring caves where she can study all kinds of geological marvels in a semi darkness that is soothing and quiet. The world above ground is a hard place for her because she is an introvert who suffers from anxiety. Being around people generally is hard, but being around people who try to get her to do what they want to do only makes her feel worse because she feels cornered and stressed.

Eliza is therefore not happy when her friends Meg and Sherri insist that before they go and explore a new cave that Eliza has found, they want to go to Drowners Swamp. Eliza has been warned countless times that Drowners Swamp, which is prone to developing sink holes, is a dangerous place that should be avoided at all costs. Unfortunately, Eliza finds it hard to take a stand or deal with a confrontation, and so she allows her friends to persuade her to go to the swamp. Against her better judgment they walk along a path and then enter the swamp. Eliza ends up in the lead and she doesn’t get far before the ground collapses beneath her. She manages to grab hold of a broken root and for a short while hangs there looking up at her friends. Then the root breaks and she falls.

The hole she ends up in is clearly instable so Eliza crawls her way down a tunnel and then she falls. Again. This time she is in a proper cavern, which feels safe after the places she has been thus far. Using the flashlight and headlamp that she has in her backpack she looks around, rests, and then she sets off down another tunnel, which is where she finds a skeleton. Trying to keep her panic in check Eliza keeps walking.

Some time later, after swimming in an underground lake, and finding another tunnel and another skeleton, Eliza sees a glowing light that has a vaguely human form. Her instincts kick in and she gets away from the light as fast as she can. Across the lake she goes again and on the other side she finds another tunnel, which is where she encounters a dog like creature that clearly has no interest in being friends. She screams, she runs, she falls, and then help arrives.

A boy Eliza’s age shoots the dog creature using a bow and arrow, killing it. Then a woman, Colleen, comes to Eliza’s side and she examines her. Apparently Colleen was a nurse before she found herself trapped underground, and she determines that Eliza has either a broken or cracked rib, which would explain the pain Eliza is experiencing. Colleen explains that she and her companions are part of a colony of people who have made their home underground. All of them have, in one way or another “been lost to this cave over the years.” Colleen has lived in the colony for six years.

Eliza’s rescuers take her to the colony’s base and soon she is resting in a tent. There are several tents in a large cavern and a small fire at the center of the space provides illumination. Including herself, there are thirteen people living there. There is one baby girl who was born underground, three teens, and nine adults. The boy who shot the dog creature is Grayson and he is seventeen. He had a very hard time adjusting to being trapped underground but he seems to have accepted it.

Indeed all of the colony residents seem to have accepted that there is no way out and that their colony life is the only life that they can have. Mary, who is a rather eccentric geologist, insists that Eliza should be her intern for at least a part of every day. She tells Eliza to read her journal entries every day and she cautions the girl not to lose her drive to find a way home, like everyone else in the colony has done. Mary believes that there is a way out, and she dares to hope that Eliza will be the person to make the journey, hopefully taking a few other people with her.

Many of us are introverts, or we have introvert friends or family members. We know how hard it is for introverts to cope with the push and pull that comes with building relationships and dealing with other people. In this story Eliza is dropped into a situation that would try anyone, but for her it is particularly difficult because she has to figure out how to cope with the people she meets underground, the people she has to be around most of the time when she is awake. She tries to stay in the background, but then she is thrust into a leadership position that challenges her to conquer her inner demons.

This exciting novel explores one girl’s journey as she not only has the adventure of her life, but as she also learns how to connect with others through friendship and even love. Touches of humor and Eliza’s own journal entries give this book a tone that readers will enjoy and appreciate.