Saoirse doesn’t believe in love at first sight or happy endings. If they were real, her mother would still be able to remember her name and not in a care home with early onset dementia. A condition that Saoirse may one day turn out to have inherited. So she’s not looking for a relationship. She doesn’t see the point in igniting any romantic sparks if she’s bound to burn out.
But after a chance encounter at an end-of-term house party, Saoirse is about to break her own rules. For a girl with one blue freckle, an irresistible sense of mischief, and a passion for rom-coms.
Unbothered by Saoirse’s no-relationships rulebook, Ruby proposes a loophole: They don’t need true love to have one summer of fun, complete with every cliché, rom-com montage-worthy date they can dream up – and a binding agreement to end their romance come fall. It would be the perfect plan, if they weren’t forgetting one thing about the Falling in Love Montage: when it’s over, the characters actually fall in love… for real.
AUTHOR: Ciara Smyth
REPRESENTATION: lesbian MC, sapphic relationship, early-onset dementia
TRIGGER WARNINGS: dementia, and (brief) invisible illness shaming
As someone who doesn’t read a whole lot of YA contemporary, I went into The Falling in Love Montage with no real expectations. I did not expect to love it as much as I did. This book did the impossible: it had me ugly crying in my bed before 9am on a Saturday, desperately trying not to wake my boyfriend. I laughed and I cried with these characters.
With a conditional offer to study at Oxford, the whole world is her oyster. Yet seventeen-year-old Saoirse has given up on the possibility of a future. No career goals and definitely no relationships. At the beginning of the book, Saoirse is nursing a broken heart. Not only did her girlfriend break up with her but Saoirse is also witnessing her mother’s memory fade further each day as a result of early-onset dementia, a condition she may one day inherit. What’s the point of working your ass off studying for a degree you’ll one day forget? What’s the point in falling in love only for the person who loves you the most to become unrecognisable? Saoirse doesn’t see the point. Until she meets Ruby.
‘How about life’s too short to be second-guessing yourself the whole way? You can only go with what you feel right now and if you feel like it might make you happy, even for a while, jump in with both feet, girl, and get wet.’
The Falling in Love Montage had everything I look for in a YA contemporary. I prefer my YA books to deal with hard-hitting topics, uncomfortable and painful topics, because life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Here are these teenage characters navigating the complexities of life. They’re dealing with tough situations, as well as learning to explore new and complex relationships, while simultaneously transitioning from being kids into adults and the emotional instability that can come with that. I thought the execution was well thought out and each subject matter was handled with care. The discussion around dementia is an extremely important one and isn’t a topic I’ve ever encountered in a fictional book before. As it’s a sensitive and delicate topic that impacts many families, it could be triggering to read about. If this is a topic that can be triggering for you, please go into this book cautiously.
Surprisingly, I adored the romance between Saoirse and Ruby. I’m not a fan of romance at all. I find, more often than not, it’s forced and contrived in YA (give me more friendship plots) but, occasionally, I’ll find a book where the romance is written in such a compelling way that I can’t help but feel all mushy inside and root for the two characters. This was one of those books. I love the idea of the montage. And I love that their relationship, while a major component of the entire book, wasn’t the most dominating. I never felt that it was forced either, which is important for me when reading about a romance in YA.
I wanted to tell her how much I liked her, how I felt this tugging feeling in my stomach that drew me close to her, but I couldn’t let the words out of my mouth because it felt like unleashing something I couldn’t control.
The Falling in Love Montage focused heavily on relationships. Not just the romance between Saoirse and Ruby, but it also explored Saoirse’s relationship with her parents, her father’s bride-to-be, and whole host of other characters. At the core of the book was the relationship between Saoirse and her parents. Her mother is now living in a care home and is unable to recognise her daughter. Saoirse’s father is about to get remarried. This creates conflicting feelings and a tension so thick a knife couldn’t even cut it. I appreciated the relationship between Saoirse and her dad. While both were hurt by the other, there was still a lot of love there for each other and, no matter how tough things got, you could still feel that love. I find that in YA, the relationship between the main character and their parents is either all or nothing. So it was nice to see that love they had for each other, while also acknowledging the work that they both needed to put into their relationship.
Honestly, there wasn’t a whole lot that I disliked about this book. Sure, some of the dialogue was corny. Parts of the romance was sickeningly sweet. There was an abundance of description. But those are just surface level annoyances that are personal to me – and that’s if I nitpick. I could gush about this book forever. If you’re after a book about love and growth that will make you both laugh out loud and ugly cry then I would highly recommend you pick up The Falling in Love Montage.