In Tumble & Fall, under the looming, inevitable threat of a world-shattering asteroid on course to collide with Earth, the lives of three teenagers unfold in their last week of existence. Like a well-written soapy drama, the novel cuts back and forth between each teen and explores their relationships with families, friends and newfound love interests. Bipolar Sienna is readjusting to life outside the mental institution, grieving Zan is learning to live without the recently deceased love of her life, and abandoned Caden struggles to carry on with his alcoholic mother and without his absent father.
Because the end of the world is a matter of how soon rather than if, Sienna, Zan and Caden feel compelled to take risks that were previously unfathomable. When their last-ditch efforts to find love and discover themselves take unexpected turns, their truest selves begin to surface. Disparate coping mechanisms for past and oncoming tragedies define them as well, but each eventually wonders, “What will [I] be like, in those final minutes, should it come to that? Calm, like the rabbit, or a total, inconsolable mess?”
Employing plot devices and narrative tools similar to those made famous by blockbuster movies such as Armageddon and Crash, author Alexandra Coutts, a former playwright and script reader, crafts an episodic saga of tangentially related characters whose lives have been intertwined all along. She sets Tumble & Fall in her native Massachusetts with the central locale on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, one of the last remaining safe havens as the end nears, and includes a visit to Boston, which has been transformed from bustling city to ghost town in a matter of days.
Tumble & Fall, Coutts’ third novel for young adults, is a well-paced and well-planned end-of-days tale that left me eager to read more about the lives and emotional reactions of characters who very easily could be my own neighbors.