Fans of works like Heathers and Mean Girls will find enjoyment in curling up with Hayley Krischer’s new novel, The Falling Girls. Krischer’s The Falling Girls examines the extraordinarily powerful yet, at times, shifting relationships that teenage girls forge with one another, from their unbreakable loyalty to their raging jealousy.
A double life
The novel focuses on our protagonist Shade Meyers, one half of a duo that consists of her and her best friend, Jadis. Shade and Jadis do everything together: they sleep in each others’ beds, use each others’ clothes for school each day, and they even share a toothbrush. They are each other’s world. But Shade has a secret desire that she keeps away from Jadis: she adored the exhilaration of cheerleading and had always yearned to be a part of their world. Most notably, she longed to be seen and accepted by the The Three Chloes, the three cheerleaders at their high school that rule the squad.
When she is recruited onto the cheerleading team, Shade’s secret dream becomes a reality. Yet, Shade is torn between her best friend and new commitment to cheerleading as she struggles to find her own way. When one of the cheerleaders dies mysteriously, Shade must uncover what happened… as well as figure out whether Jadis had anything to do with it.
Toxic friendships is explored
A huge, if not core, theme of The Falling Girls is the impact that toxic female friendships can have on adolescents. Shad and Jadis are the central pair here, but we also get to see this dynamic at play between two of The Chloes on the cheerleading team, who were best friends prior to gaining the third member of their trio.
Shade and Jadis are extremely codependent at the start of this novel. Unhealthily so, in fact. Many times throughout the book, it is made clear to us–through either Shade’s thoughts or another character’s dialogue–that Jadis literally cannot function without having a primary role in Shade’s life. She needs to be the center of Shade’s world.
This is also seen with Chloe Orbach and Chloe Schmitt on the cheerleading squad. Chloe Orbach quickly takes Shade under her wing, ensuring that Shade is supported in her transition to being a cheerleader. Yet, she also has no qualms in announcing private details about Chloe Schmitt to get her to bend to Chloe Orbach’s whims.
Set in present day, we also see how technology plays a role in how some teenage friendships toe the line between being depicted as “close” on social media, while also veiling their true emotions by subtweeting their thoughts about each other.
An uncomfortable read
I was quite uncomfortable reading this book. I grew up with some female friends in middle and high school, but I never experienced the level of manipulation and toxicity that Shade, Jadis, and the Three Chloes exemplify. Aside from these leads, Krischer briefly introduces other female friendships that portray similar bonds: they will kill for each other as easily as they would kill each other.
This generalization of how female friendships operate made me uneasy, as it was not my experience. The Falling Girls was definitely an exacerbation of just how horribly wrong things can go if a female friendship sours. I would hope that young women of that age range would not go so far as to commit murder, but at the impressionable age where we are wracked with self-doubt, amplified emotions, and anxieties of finding out where we belong in the world, the friendships we make should not be another area of distress.
Shade and Jadis had a more positive outcome to their friendship, which was that they finally took some time apart from one another and focused on themselves, rather than continue their unhealthy codependency. The Three Chloes suffered a worse fate with their similar codependency: one dead, the second in prison, and the third having been taken out of school to be removed from the aftermath. It was interesting to see how similar dynamics between different characters reached a differing ending. Krischer did a decent job adding notes throughout her text that showcased the importance of taking time away from toxic relationships and viewing it objectively to make sure that you understand just how you are being affected.
Overall a generalized yet critical view into the world of toxic female friendships and their impact, The Falling Girls was an intriguing take on just how fragile some “tight” friendships really are, as well as the impressive and deadly lengths one can achieve when that bond is threatened.
The Falling Girls by Hayley Krischer was released on October 5th, 2021.