Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Catch Me When You Fall by Eileen Merriman: Book Review

Discovering happiness amid uncertainty and finding a love that transcends the boundary between life and death.

Seventeen year old Alex Byrd is about to have the worst day of her life, and the best. A routine blood test that will reveal her leukaemia has returned, but she also meets Jamie Orange.

Both teenagers have big dreams, but also big obstacles to overcome.


I have never been as moved by a novel as I have with this teenage romance caught between the struggles of reality. Catch Me When You Fall follows the story of a sixteen-year-old girl called Alex Byrd who lives in Christchurch with her parents and younger sister. After a brief doctors appointment where she bonds over a mutually loved book with a boy of her age, Jamie Orange, she soon finds out that her leukaemia has returned and she may not survive this time around. Throughout the course of the novel, Alex finds solace in her newfound love and passion for the arts with Jamie and comes to realise that Jamie has many issues of his own, despite him appearing angelic in appearance with a personality that continues to sway her deeply as a typical first love does.

Some people believe in love at first sight, and some don't.
I believe in love in four days.
I believe in falling.

The title Catch Me When You Fall seems to imply the act of falling in love and expecting another to return the feeling in full. I definitely felt that this novel lived up to the expectation that came with this statement; its storyline has captured teenage love with absolute precision and also managed to convey the same message with the idea of succumbing to the sicknesses they suffer from.

Since I have not personally suffered with a sickness as dire as cancer, reading about a girl who has gone through it not once but three times, has been an experience that I will never forget. Both Alex and Jamie kick off their bonding session over a book called 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. This love for books grows into a connection over music they relate to which seems to give the book more life and beauty as the reader can search up the song and listen to it during the scene that is playing out. I found myself rooting for Alex to survive, despite the terrifying odds, and relating more-or-less to Jamie with his bipolar disorder, as it is one of the two major categories of manic depression.

A photo I posted to my Instagram account. Click on the photo to see more

Merriman has done an extraordinary job of creating a realistic world of love and suffering, where two teenagers connect and clash over trivial matters which overall brings them closer together over the course of the novel. Basing their story in Christchurch, New Zealand helped me related to Alex as a young teenager going through her first relationship and learning to juggle her personal life with someone else who is going through a different kind of sickness. In Alex’s mind it is harder for her to understand why Jamie claims to struggle so much with his mental illness when she feels she is closer to the brink of possible death.

I said, 'I wish this moment could be forever.''We are forever.' Jamie raised his head, and kissed me on the lips. 'Neither alive nor dead.'

Merriman has created a perfectly realistic and relatable story that many New Zealand teenagers, and possibly others overseas, can feel emotionally moved by Alex and Jamie’s relationship going through the ringer and back. Much of the factual content had been researched by the author’s connections and written with some of her own knowledge as a nurse. Her writing is beautifully simplistic along with the use of the Norwegian language through Jamie’s family, which adds diversity that Eileen has been known for from her debut novel, Pieces of You.

A photo I posted to my Instagram account. Click on the photo to see more

I would recommend this to anyone above the age of thirteen that has experienced the trials of a first love, and anyone who is just looking to find something that can re-invent it perfectly in a 300-page novel. It has been one of the most eye-opening stories I’ve come across throughout my time as an avid reader and I am positive that this will open the doorway for many more writers who feel like they have powerful stories of their own to tell. I've given this novel a 4.5 stars out of 5!

What are some of your favourite novels that deal with life-threatening illnesses or mental health issues? Are there any other New Zealand based novels that you can recommend? Let me know in the comments below!

Check out my Spotify playlist for

Catch Me When You Fall

* A few of these songs are actually mentioned in the book, others I have curated for the playlist on my own accord. I hope you enjoy it!

Thank you Penguin Random House NZ for the review copy!
Like and follow their links here:

Official Website: http://penguin.co.nz/

Go add Catch Me When You Fall to your Goodreads list HERE

Go buy it on MightyApe with 1 day delivery in New Zealand HERE

Buy it on Book Depository with free shipping world wide HERE

Find it on the Penguin Random House NZ website HERE

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