A two-book series by the bestselling author of Almost and Unmaking Hunter Kennedy.
How I Fall by Anne Eliot
*WHAT IF YOU HAD AN IMPOSSIBLE CRUSH?*
Impossible because she’s Ellen Foster. The beautiful, smart, and possibly fragile photography-girl. You’re Cam Campbell. The guy who plays football 24/7 with no life. But what if during junior year, you decide to finally try for her phone number—until this glitter-crazed new girl ruins your plan. Worse, the girl is Irish, awkward, and insists you and Ellen should become best friends—with her! Only, you don’t want to be friends with a human tornado, and you think Ellen might need to stay a crush. This is because after one interaction you’ve discovered Ellen Foster really is fragile. Your problems and secrets are too big for anyone to understand.
*WHAT IF YOU COULDN’T RESIST?*
But what if the three of you wind up assigned to a group photography project, where rumors are already circling about the new girl being ridiculous? You know she’s nice but very alone, so you convince your crush to help protect the new girl. Suddenly, working on the project makes hanging out, texting, talking—and even high school—seem fun and completely normal when it’s anything but normal.
*WHAT IF YOU KISS?*
What if you kiss Ellen Foster and it’s perfect enough to make you believe in things you shouldn’t. You tell her secrets and share your dreams. You make the kinds of promises and create plans to be together that might be impossible to keep when you’re only sixteen and your parents control your entire future, but... WHAT IF YOU HURT HER?
- Ellen -
I pause at the corner down from the bus stop so I can regain some control. Both legs—the good one and the bad—are quaking dangerously. I’m also breathing like I’ve run a marathon in thick maple syrup instead of simply walking five blocks, but who cares? I’ve just navigated sidewalks covered with snow and ice with no crutches and no cane for the first time in my life. And I did not fall. Not once!
I check my phone to record the time and what I see has me almost gasping out loud.
*Crowd roars. She waves. She bows. She’s got ten minutes to burn!*
Because I have mild Cerebral Palsy, my physical therapist, Nash, would normally get half of the credit here. But it was my idea to pull double workouts all summer and fall. This victory is all mine, but either way, I can’t wait to give him a report. He’s going to be so proud. This will prove to him there is light at the end of my tunnel. The guy is so gloom and doom. He’s always thinking about my future and making predictions based on statistics, while I’m trying to convince him that I can write my own statistics.
Today, I will get to be the one who’s right!
Breath caught up, I straighten my messenger bag and face the bus stop ready for anything and anyone this day might try to throw at me! But two steps into walking the last half block, the calf of my bad leg spikes a surprise cramp.
“Please…no,” I mutter, jerking to a stop as white-lightning fires up my entire leg. The pain’s so harsh I could swear it’s stopped my heart. Scanning for anything that can save me from a public wobble-wobble-Ellen-falls-down event, I veer off the sidewalk and head for the cars parked on the street. Luckily, I’ve locked my hand onto a car mirror just as the knee on my bad leg buckles completely. For insurance, I lean most of my upper body weight on the dripping car hood, happy that my lumpy, hand-me-down jacket is at least waterproof. Only then do I pull in a slow steady breath and test—and beg—and pray—for my still trembling good leg to be okay.
It holds steady, but since I’m not allowed any guarantees with how my body behaves, I keep a death grip on the car any way I can. At least my sudden move has turned me away from the kids down at the stop. If I’m lucky, no one will have seen how I almost just hit the pavement. Even better, while I work out the kinks in my calf, I’ll be able to pretend that I’m simply admiring the snow and taking pictures of random stuff with my iPhone like I always do.
“Come on. Please. Come on.” I twist my bad ankle in a slow circle while more shards of pain pull my calf even tighter. Elation has disappeared, replaced by lead-heavy frustration. If Nash saw me clinging to this car, he’d launch into a thirty-minute lecture about how I’m supposed to have a cane with me at all times. I’ve been ignoring my promise to him and my mom since the first day of school about the cane, but it’s my life. So far, no harm’s been done, only good because I’m doing so well without it. But still…if he tells on me I’d feel terrible. Mom already works and worries so much.
My phone dings with the ultra-quiet bell tone I’ve set for my best friend, Patrick.
Every morning, from his bus stop on the other side of the golf course, he sends me cheesy inspirational quotes as a way to half-cheer, half-annoy the heck out of me. But he’s too late to do either. If I can’t get a handle on this spastic muscle response, I’ll be forced to drag one leg around like plywood until it recovers. A fact that will make me limp awkwardly in front of everyone. A little show people seem to watch with interest when I’m forced off balance. I hate that my limp will feature how I still have CP on the very day I thought I might be able to forget about it for a little while.
I also won’t be able to lift my leg high enough for my foot to gain access to the steps up the bus, so I’ll have to ask the driver to activate the mobility ramp. Something I haven’t needed for two years!
I breathe out a long sigh, forcing my thoughts to calm and my ankle to turn and turn, even though it’s making my eyes water from the effort.
*Vows to cling to this car and limp home before asking to use that hateful, stupid, noisy ramp.*
Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding.
With the cramp still deciding which way it’s going to settle, I pull out my phone and scroll back to the beginning of Patrick’s messages. I shake my head, unable not to crack a smile despite my dark thoughts. He’s outdone himself with this one. It’s a horrible moving .gif that features a kitten with extra big, extra creepy blinking eyes staring at a ferocious hyena. The swirly font reads: Face Your Fears.
He’s added: I can’t tell which is scarier. Hyena or kitten? Thoughts?
I read the rest of Patrick’s texts, sent after I did not respond: Ellen? U there?
I woke up late. Had no clue about the storm.
Stupid snow. I would have come to your stop but no time.
Don’t make me walk over there. Ellen?
While I’m reading, more come in: I’m coming there now and calling an ambulance.
Before he goes insane—and because I know he’s not kidding about the ambulance call—I quickly fire out: Very funny.
Then a few lies to calm down his crazy: I’m awesome. Kitten is scarier than hyena. It’s a perfect beautiful day. I was taking photos, sorry it took so long to text back.
He knows that despite the pitfalls winter storms have brought me, I’m happiest when I’m taking photographs of ice and snow. There might not be much to do when fall closes the small lake front beaches all around our small town of Brights Grove, Ontario, but for me, living on the shores of Lake Huron delivers winters that serve up ice photos like no other place on earth! This storm’s just a taste. In a few weeks, I’ll wake up to find iced trees, iced grass, iced park benches, iced branches and iced everything.
Heaven. And I’ve waited all spring and summer long for them to come back.
I text him a few more lines because Patrick’s hard to convince. I’m also trying to focus on the few positives I have left: Guess who arrived at this bus stop in record time? Me. I’ve also snapped some awesome shots. Wait till you see.
He replies: Waiting.
I evade: Shh. Busy.
If I mention my spazzed leg it will only make him worry. Patrick’s got a geometry test first period he won’t ace if he’s distracted by my daily CP drama. The guy’s already acting extra guilty about how he’s ditched me to be on the Huron High football team this year. The coaches plucked him out of oblivion and made him something called a Varsity defender. Whatever that means. Patrick says it’s some sort of miracle for a kid who didn’t play JV. It’s also made Patrick so happy I can’t complain one bit for the simple reason that it makes me happy when he’s happy.
He and I have been best friends since he was instantly labeled, too-tall-guy and wound up at the loser lunch table with me, the-handicapped-girl. That was way back when he first moved to town, for grade seven.
And so, there we sat. Together. Alone. For a really long time.
Our first conversations happened while we were both pretending we didn’t hear the snide comments directed at us. He’d crack into my silences saying stuff like, “You got lime Jell-O? I love Jell-O.” And then he wouldn’t give up until I smiled at him or answered. His real progress with our friendship occurred when I found out his mom is a manager at Tim Hortons, what I consider to be the best donut/coffee/food place ever created. It didn’t take Patrick long to figure out that I have a particular weakness for Timbits. But who doesn’t? They’re these fresh little donut hole pastries. At least twice a week, because his mom is awesome and hooks him up all the time, he’d pull out the cute rectangular, Snack Pack cardboard box all kids love, push it across the table, waggle his brows all funny and say, “Want some?”
Of course I always did.
The Timbits generosity alone should have been enough to seal our friendship for good—because those tiny balls-of-addictive substance are that fresh and that good—but Patrick swears he wasn’t sure about my loyalties until the day I faked a spastic-limb-attack to soak a kid with a whole tin of Mandarin oranges after the kid called Patrick the Jolly Green Giant. I think I also shouted something like, “He’s not even green, you dummy, and now you’re the Mean Orange Bully, so there!” I’ve always sucked at fast comebacks.
I finally gave Patrick my permanent trust one week later. It was the day some kids thought it would be funny to take my crutches and leave me on a swing. Back then I couldn’t go across a room without crutches because my good leg was not strong like it is now.
No one noticed I was missing, either. Except Patrick.
He’d dashed back out to the playground while the teacher was calling the office for back up. He found me, dried my tears, and without a word, helped me to the office. They let him wait while the nurse bandaged the scrapes on my hands and knees. My mom, the principal, and Patrick were angry that I’d been stubbornly trying to crawl my way back inside instead of calling out for help. But later Patrick told me he understood. Said he would have done the same.
He’s never left me alone at recess ever again. Of course, we haven’t had recess for years, but the guy still tries to make sure I’m okay no matter where I am or where he is. I endlessly tell him I can take care of myself, but I know that it’s just his way. He’s still trying to keep that promise because that’s who he is as a person. His inspirational quotes and texts are some sort of over-compensating thing he’s developed because he can’t be near me all the time.
Last summer, Patrick got really lucky. He stopped being so clumsy, his shyness disappeared, and his six-foot-four frame makes perfect sense now that some of the other guys have had growth spurts to match. All that, plus the part where his status on the football team has locked him into the popular crowd, has fast-tracked him to a completely different level than where I’m stuck.
I figured it would happen eventually, because he’s awesome and gorgeous and people were bound to discover that. I refuse to let him be slowed down by me for his entire life, so I’m really careful about acting sad or letting him think I’ve been left behind somehow, because that idea would kill him. Besides, I’m not sad or left behind.
I just miss him, that’s all. I’m also doing great, making my own way bit by bit. And when I’m not, like today, I’m a master at faking it. As much as I try to hide my condition and pretend that I’m just like everyone else, I know that people with CP don’t get lucky and transform into graceful swans like Patrick did. It just doesn’t happen.
Testing the pain in my bad leg with half my weight again, I’m relieved to discover it’s fading away. Just in case, I keep one hand on the car and turn to grab a few shots of this long, delicate icicle melting off the bottom of a mailbox at the edge of the driveway. It’s too tempting not to snap it off and drop it in the perfectly round, snow-bordered puddle near my feet. I get a bunch of cool shots when it floats to the top dead center. The narrow tip is pointing outward and it’s going around and around like it’s a nature-made game spinner.
Patrick texts again: Give me a sign that you are perfectly happy and that you aren’t lying to me right now. How’s the snow? Are you really, truly, absolutely okay? Prove it, or I’m coming over there.
I text him one of the floating icicle photos and add: I’ve never been better. Swear. Now get on your bus and study for your test.
His answer: Beauty. You should take up photography or something…you might be good at it. ;)
I grab a few more shots of the snow-heavy, leafed-out branches above, and then force myself out of my photography haze, because I’m supposed to be working on casually getting myself near enough to board the bus.
My heart sinks and twists yet again as I realize what I’ve missed. No wonder Patrick texted me that big-eyed, brave kitten. The crowd down at the stop is huge. I’ve got way bigger problems than the possibility of limping in front of people. I’d totally forgotten—or blocked out—how crowded it was going to be today. In our town, all car keys are pulled by parents on snow days, because the school closes the student parking lots. I let out a long, shaky breath, wishing I could run all the way back home. Today, we are going to be forced to ride three-to-a-seat.
*Ellen Foster prepares to die.*
I loved this book so much. It was just fantastic in so many ways. Beautiful and heartbreaking. Reminded me of exactly what it felt like to be a teenager in love with a boy. And that first kiss...so sweet. So memorable. Exactly what I first kiss should be.
"How I Fall captures exactly how a high school crush feels. You can have endless long days—days that feel exactly the same—and then in one moment a little thing changes, a conversation finally happens, and suddenly there’s a new friend group formed where relationships are suddenly ‘on’! I loved this book (How I Fall) and I’ve already read the sequel, How I Fly as ARC. You will laugh, you will cry and you will fall so in love with Ellen and Cam’s story.” ~Becca H. Teen book blogger.
“Anne Eliot writes the sweetest first kisses. She also does those book boyfriends you can’t get out of your head. Cam Campbell in How I Fall doesn’t disappoint, nor does the awesome first kiss.” ~Judith, I Love YA Fiction, Blog
How I Fly by Anne Eliot
*WHAT IF IT'S TIME TO MOVE ON...?*
Over six months after an accident that broke her legs as well as removed her boyfriend from her life—because Cam Campbell left town and dumped her—high school senior, Ellen Foster, wants to move past her broken heart. She’s off to attend a summer photography workshop at a real university along with her best friends. Ellen’s determined to find a new love—or at least a summer boyfriend. In the dorm, she meets Harrison Shaw. He’s a handsome photography student, a charmer who likes her, and a perfect way to forget her past.
*WHAT IF IT ALL GOES PERFECTLY...?*
Ellen thinks she has everything she wants. Her summer program couldn’t be better. She’s half in love with Harrison Shaw, and she’s going after her next scholarship. But when she kisses Harrison, she can only remember how Cam Campbell used kiss her better, sweeter, and how he used to make her feel like she could fly…
*WHAT IF SOMETHING IS NOT RIGHT...?*
When Cam shows up at the university it’s a shock, especially to Ellen’s new boyfriend. Cam’s distant, different and very afraid to hurt Ellen again. He asks Ellen if they could be friends despite the past and how they’ve both changed and Ellen agrees. But after all they’ve been through, can Cam and Ellen ever be just friends?
This book was not the instant fall in love hit for me that the first one was but Cam and Ellen's story is irresistible. You can't help but root for these characters. Plus Laura London rather feels like my secret twin so there's that.
Author Anne Eliot
Anne Eliot is the author of the, How I Fall/How I Fly two book series, and bestselling, young adult teen issue romances, Almost and Unmaking Hunter Kennedy. She loves writing about teens who live outside the ordinary and she's devoted to stories about teens who live outside the ordinary but who also get to find sweet first kisses and first loves.
Anne resides in Colorado with a very patient husband, two teens of her own whom she adores (an some teens near and far thanks to hosting many exchange students) who are all growing up too fast.
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