Freedom in Falling has a trope I don’t see often enough – prickly meets a different kind of prickly. West is the more traditionally prickly – grumpy and tightly wound. He keeps people at bay with frowns and coldness. Noah is prickly sunshine. He keeps people at a distance with bright colors, a performance of arrogance, and being kind of an asshole. Both of them are really soft disaster anxiety babies.
I liked the way J. Emery unfolded their relationship – from the meet-disaster to reconciliation. West and Noah spend a good chunk of time being irritated and attracted to one another while we get to know them – their families, their friends, and Noah’s art – before they start spending time with each other. Both men have difficult relationships with their families, and each has one sibling with whom they are close. Both respond by shutting down. Noah makes himself smaller around his family, while West is almost entirely shut down in every part of his life. Only his sister, Charlotte, is able to draw him out, until being mad at Noah gives him the freedom to be unlikable. With Noah, he can be more himself, so when Noah asks him to model for some photographs, he says yes.
Freedom in Falling is seething with emotion. Noah has been told he’s too much and is constantly waiting for rejection. Their disastrous first meeting removes the burden of being likable for both of them and they are more fully themselves with each other. Noah shows his softness and West shows emotion and vulnerability. My only wish for them beyond what I get from the book, is that they both have the time and resources for some therapy. It seems like Noah would be a good influence on West in that regard.
It was a lovely read, and J. Emery has intrigued me. I’m grateful to Candace Harper for the recommendation.
I received this as an advance reader copy from the author via Booksprout in exchange for an honest review.