Falling - Amber Jaeger Actual rating: 1.5 StarsSixteen-year-old Bixby's life is falling apart: her mother died, her father is distant and barely ever at home, she constantly has to care for her grandma who has Alzheimer's, and recently her older brother, Lincoln, was killed in a car accident. Bixby only finds solace in visiting an imaginary town in her vivid dreams. There, everything is under control and she always has friends. But then, a stranger appears in her dream world––a boy named Jordan, who offers to bring her brother back from the dead. But of course, it will come with a price ...I downloaded this book because it was free for Kindle. And when I started it, I had high hopes. I've always been in love with the concept of dreams––especially lucid dreams, alternate universes in dreams, etc. And I haven't found a lot of good books about this kind of stuff. (And I tried writing one once myself, but it didn't really work out...) Anyway, I found the premise really intriguing, which enough to give the book an extra half-star.Unfortunately, everything else in the book either fell flat for me or majorly pissed me off. While the story started out with an original idea, it soon fell prey to all the clichés that infect YA paranormal romance. Not only that, but often times the plot just felt really rushed and didn't make a lot of logical sense.So, continuing with the story ... Lincoln does in fact come back from the dead. There's some excuse for it like, "Oh there was a third body in the car that no one knew about and we got them mixed up" or ... something. I don't know. And then he just kind of goes back to normal life, so whatever.Predictably, the "price" Jordan wanted Bixby to pay was for her to be "bound" to him.Well, we all know it just goes downhill from there. What follows is a wandering plot in which Bixby travels between the real world and the dream world. In the real world, she mopes around and has a miserable life, and in the dream world Jordan harasses and abuses her and this is supposed to be "romantic." (Oh yeah, also he turns out to be a genie.) So, yup.Anyway, let's look at some of the main problems here:Bixby is a Mary Sue.Bixby is the typical "outcast" Mary Sue. She claims to have absolutely no friends at school because ... uh ... I guess it's because she's too pretty and she reads too much. Other than that there's not really any reason. She also seems to generally consider herself to be a lot better and more pure than all the other girls and makes this quite clear on several occasions. For example! There's this part where Lincoln sets Bixby up on a date with this random sleazy guy named Brent. Lincoln arranges this without telling Bixby and is just like, "I took care of it all: date, dress, everything." (And this seems like a really weird and controlling thing for an older brother to do, but that's not even the point here.)Lincoln informs Bixby that he borrowed the dress from this girl named Celia. To this, Bixby replies: "Celia? You mean slutty Celia? I can see the top of her bra and thong in every outfit she wears!"... Lovely.But that's not all, folks! Later, Lincoln and Bixby get into this argument when Bixby doesn't seem to be enjoying her date with Brent:Lincoln's jaw clenched and bulged. "Bixby, please, why do you have to make things difficult? Why do you think my friends don't like you? Maybe they think you're the bitch."I recoiled from him, my eyes stinging. "Why? Because I don't spend hours focused on my hair and my face and my clothes with the other girls or slut it up with all the guys like they do?"HOW TO BE A SLUT IN THREE EASY STEPS by Bixby1) Accidentally expose your underwear ... or I guess, just wear clothing that is revealing to some degree.2) Actually care about your appearance. Do your hair, put on make-up, and go shopping for nice clothes like the shallow whore you are.3) "Slut it up" with guys, whatever the hell that means. Making out? Having sex? Well, whatever. If you even so much as try to attract a guy's attention, you are automatically impure.I think that's the gist of it.Oh yeah, and did I mention that Jordan's magic somehow makes Bixby gradually turn prettier? That's right! Somehow his magical spells carry over into the real world, and it makes Bixby always appear as if she is wearing make-up on her face. "Makeup wasn't an option seeing as I didn't actually own any but inspecting my face I could see I didn't really need it."Well yes, because if you owned makeup that would make you a slut. But conveniently, you are magically pretty because of your genie boyfriend. "But my cheeks were no more than rosy and my skin was smooth. My hair was still lying as nicely as it had been when I had fixed it. I sadly wondered how much different I was going to end up looking.""Sadly" ... ? Man, if I automatically looked like I was wearing make-up every morning that would be fantastic.Well anyway, I think you get the idea. In conclusion, Bixby is an annoying Mary Sue and she slut-shames like crazy. Moving on!Jordan is a creep.No surprise there. It's bad enough that he magically "binds" Bixby to him and controls her appearance. But he also has been spying on her for years. Yay!"Autumn is my favorite season," I mumbled stupidly."I know it is," he said fervently. "That's why I made it perfect for you. it never rains on Halloween; it's never so cold kids have to cover up their costumes. I make the leaves change color and drop in shifts, lasting for months. That smell you love so much, it's the leaves changing."Uh, okay. So he controls the weather for her. Weird. But it gets creepier ..."How do you know that?" I whispered. "How do you know that about me?"He smiled sweetly and moved his hand from the chair to my hand. "Just observation."Yeah okay ... "just observation." Also known as stalking.Of course, Jordan also "falls in love" with Bixby after only having like five conversations with her. "I love you. I have been in love with you for years. There are so many things I can't change and so many things I am sorry about but you have to know. I love you."I could feel my mouth opening and closing, trying to force an appropriate answer out.Jordan shook his head. "You don't have to say anything. We have forever to figure this out."So basically it's like ...Jordan: So like I've been stalking you for your whole life and watching you and controlling the weather for you. Haha surprise.Bixby: ....Jordan: So yeah I'm TOTES IN LOVE WITH YOU.Bixby: Uh ...Jordan: Haha shut up bitch I own you and you don't get a say in the matter. But being a stalker isn't enough. Of course not. He also has to be a controlling, abusive bastard. "I would never hurt you," he said fiercely, unmindful of his fingers digging into my flesh. I was horrified to see a glistening of tears in his eyes. "I can't change what I am, I can't change the world I live in but I will never hurt you again and I will never let anything in this world do so either." Anyone else find that horribly ironic? In fact, the following day Bixby observes that she has "five finger print bruises on each arm." Oh, but Jordan would never hurt her. Never ever.Oh, but it gets worse. When Jordan finds out Bixby went on a date with that Brent guy:"So you figured it was all right to be with someone else? … I would have thought it was clear going on dates and dancing with other men was not acceptable."UMMMMM. I'm sorry, what?Just ... NO! First of all, Bixby makes it pretty clear that she was forced to go on this date and that she has no interest in the guy involved. And even if she was interested, it's really none of Jordan's freaking business. He's a genie that lives in another dimension for chrissakes. And he forced Bixby into a relationship with him. He never asked her if she agreed to being "bound" to him. He just told her there was going to be a price to pay for her brother's life back, and then he was like "TROLOLOLO NOW I OWN YOU." Because I guess that's what love is all about.Well, at least Bixby seems weirded out by this and makes some observation about how Jordan has "serious jealousy issues." But after this whole argument, she goes back to being obsessed with him again: - "I left the restaurant happy and content, dreaming up different ways Jordan and I could make up and he could go back to being the perfect guy I wanted him to be."- "And it hurt to think of him like that because as angry as I was, as much as I no longer trusted him, I was still in love with him."WHYYYY?????!!!!! I just ... don't get it. How could you be in love with a guy who was so creepy and possessive? I don't understand.Well anyway, I think it's about time that I start to wrap this thing up, so here's kind of a run-down of what happens for the last chunk of the book. **SPOILERS BELOW!**So after that whole argument with Jordan, this other nice guy named Kyle/Jimmy (you'll see what I mean in a second) tries to ask Bixby out on a date."Oh, I know," Kyle said cheerfully. "I wanted to talk to you.""Oh," I said, disappointed."I was wondering if you wanted to go to the movies on Friday.""That's not a good idea," I said quickly, a little too quickly."Oh," he said with a fallen face."'Cause I don't think Lincoln would like that," I rushed to amend."I already asked him!" he told me, smile back in place. ..."Right. Well, I still think it's not a good idea right now. I'm … I'm grounded."Jimmy frowned. "Oh. Lincoln didn't mention that when I asked him."Things that are wrong with this:1) For some reason guys need to ask "permission" from Lincoln before asking Bixby out on a date. Uh ...2) Kyle's name spontaneously changes to Jimmy.And then there's the ending in which things get ... weird.So, Bixby's grandma runs out into a lightning storm and Bixby runs after her. The police track them down and say they're going to take Bixby's grandma to a nursing home. They try to arrest Bixby for ... some reason, and she tries to get away. And then she gets arrested for "resisting arrest." Oh, the irony.Bixby then has to talk to some social worker lady who wants to put her in a foster home, and this is what happens:"I'm not going to a foster home.""You are," she said firmly."I'm not. I will run away from whatever home you bring me too." (Yes, that typo is actually in the book.)Sophie sat back and crossed her arms over her chest. After a minute she began sliding all her papers back into her briefcase. "Fine," she said."Fine?" I repeated, relief flooding me."No foster home for you. You can just go straight to juvie too," she said, and with that walked out the door.Uh ... correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure that's not how the law works.Well anyway!So, Bixby suddenly finds herself in juvie, where a bunch of girls immediately attack her and cut off her hair (because you're totally allowed to have scissors in juvie.) Bixby once again whines about how it sucks to be beautiful and how it "only brings her negative attention." Whatever.She then talks to some other girl and lays out her future plans:"I'm going to find my brother and beg his forgiveness and find my grandma and get her out of that nursing home." I squared my shoulders with resolve. "And then I'm going to find Jordan and kill him."Okay well ... that's ... intense. At least it's not what I expected. But anyway! To make a long story short ... I thought this book had potential. The idea behind it was really cool, but unfortunately it didn't live up to my expectations. It ended up being a typical paranormal romance with a Mary Sue protagonist, an abusive asshole love interest, and slut-shaming galore. I don't plan on reading the rest of the series.