Published by Simon & Schuster
Publication date: March 14th 2017
Lisa Bellow is blonde, pretty and popular—everything every young girl wants to be in middle school. Unfortunately, she is also well on her way to being a complete bitch. Her popularity is a weapon she wields against all the other less self-assured girls in the 8h grade, including Meredith Oliver. So, when Lisa is abducted it breaks open a jar of conflicting emotions in everyone in Susan Perabo’s new novel, The Fall of Lisa Bellow. Especially in Meredith, who was with Lisa when she was taken, but who was left behind.
Perabo chooses a great premise with The Fall of Lisa Bellow. There is not only the ghoulish aspect of people’s responses to drama, but there is what happens to the eye witnesses—the survivors. Meredith just happens to be in the convenience store when it is robbed. She is trying to avoid Lisa, but both girls are forced to the floor and then the masked man chooses Lisa to leave with him. Meredith goes into a state of shock and does not recover for several hours after she is discovered. She is not a friend of Lisa’s. In fact, Lisa has been a kind of bully to her, but now the two of them are forever linked.
It’s not a secret, but in case you missed it…this is only marginally a mystery. What happened to Lisa is not the focus of the novel beyond Meredith’s reaction to the event. For Meredith there is the easy and almost instant culture of celebrity, but there is also a darker world she finds herself slipping into. One of blame—why didn’t she look up from the floor and see the license plate number? And, one of withdrawing into Lisa’s story, to the point of imagining that she too was taken and that she is fighting for survival with Lisa. As Meredith grapples with these realities, Perabo adds the filters of her parents, her brother, Lisa’s mother and Lisa’s group of friends to the lens of her life. For the reader, each zooms, focuses and colors her world in ways we might never have considered.
There are times when an author so perfectly conjures the voice of an age that anyone who’s already been through that age reels in recognition of its tone. Perabo does this with Meredith. Her description of the seismic shift in the social strata between elementary school and middle school made me wince with recognition. She compares it to being on the Titanic:
Lisa Bellow and her friends had gotten the memo about the iceberg. It was possible that they had written the memo. It was even conceivable…that they had somehow been responsible for the iceberg in the first place.
It is this kind of inner dialogue that makes The Fall of Lisa Bellow intriguing, which is necessary because there is no real resolution in the novel. Instead, it’s more a meditation on family dynamics, how people cope with tragedy and how that coping may appear to others. That it’s all wrapped in an explosive subject will be either a source of satisfaction or frustration in appreciating the novel. I fell somewhere in the realm of like not love.