Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ 1/2
Escapism can be a handy trick for those who want to temporarily get away from a bad situation or for those who merely need a change of scenery, often to a place glamorous, exciting and maybe even a little dangerous.
Julie, the protagonist of Mia García’s debut novel Even If the Sky Falls, needs both. While on a church-sponsored community service trip to New Orleans, Julie slips away one night into the heart of the city, only to find herself thrown into the glittery midst of Mid-Summer Mardi Gras. When she meets a boy with electric blue hair that she feels an immediate spark with, Julie takes a chance to escape from the storm of her personal life. However, she soon finds herself in the path of a very different kind of storm.
Gorgeously and lyrically written with a distinct voice, García’s debut is a whirlwind of a story, one of grief, escape and growth. Julie’s struggles with a brother suffering from PTSD following a military tour overseas and the isolation she feels at home jump off the page. So do her adventures with Miles and the rest of the boys in New Orleans, from late-night beignet binges to impromptu ghost tours.
The most developed character in the novel was its setting: the vibrant, mystical, complicated city of New Orleans. Each scene and description of the city was handled with strong, rich descriptions that made the action of the place come alive. The scenes that took place in the heart of New Orleans were also the heart of this book.
However, for the people that populated this setting, the level of development varied in success. García’s does feature a diverse cast, though, adding to the richness of the novel. Julie’s arc felt mostly complete, albeit rushed due to the idea of her having one night to get away. The novel leaves unanswered questions about many of the other characters, especially Miles and his friends, and even Tavis, the touchy-feely leader of Julie’s church service group. Just a few more lines of dialogue or a few more lines of description would have went a long way in elevating the characters to the same level of detail as the setting. The characters were strong and likable, but they left me wanting that little extra push to great.
Another part of this well-written and emotionally spot-on book that left me wanting more were the frequent flashbacks to Julie’s past. Some felt too long, others too short and a few just right. It should be noted, however, that overall, García’s novel was well paced. The last fifty of pages or so felt rushed to a hasty conclusion, but other than that, the novel flowed flawlessly.
While the scenes from Julie’s past came together to form an overall picture in the end, they had a hard time getting there and sometimes felt at odds with the present storyline. A little more clarity and build-up earlier on was needed to balance out some of the later, heavier past scenes, which were, however, rendered with extreme honesty, sincerity and care.
The songs that were scattered throughout the novel also felt out of place. It was unclear how they related to the present or if they were Miles’ or someone else’s. They were well written, but some kind of marker or indication might have helped them slip better into the story.
Overall, García’s novel is a great read and she’s an author with a great style to watch out for in the future. For those who frequent New Orleans to those who are stranger to the city, the book is an adventure. Julie’s story is one worth reading, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a sweet, romantic tale about possibilities and recovery.