I have an illness, a disease with the shape and sound of a snake. Whenever I learn something new, it learns it too.

I really don’t want to give too much away about this wonderful book, but I will urge you to read it. Many reviewers have disclosed Matthew’s illness, which is fair enough if you want to discuss the implications, but I think it gives the reader a preconception about him and means you might expect certain things earlier in the book.

The way Matthew’s narrative tells the story is meandering, just like how a person talks. You get side tracked and jump about in the timeline. But it is never confusing, it works, because it reveals Matthew’s story bit by bit, keeping you turning the page despite knowing that in the end, Simon is dead and Matthew is in a psychiatric facility.

I think what makes it all the more heart-breaking is that Matthew is such a kind and good person. He loved his brother and there are moments that demonstrate how good a brother he really was. All siblings will fight and fall out now and then, but there was a real bond between them. So often, people with serious mental illnesses are portrayed as the bad guys. Despite one worrying event in school, Matthew comes across as harmless, at least to others. Just a series of awful events and a genetic predisposition triggered his break, maybe not helped by mild drug use.

There is a huge helping of grief and guilt within the pages. His mother is the one who struggles the most, with Simon’s loss, partially blaming her younger son, but maybe no more than he blames himself. But then to raise a child with Down syndrome, to lose him and then lose part of your other child to mental illness, that has got to hit hard. His father is an amazing character, who has a small part but is so compassionate. There are moments I just wanted to hug him.

The Shock of the Fall is published by Borough Press, an imprint of HarperCollins, and is available to buy in paperback and ebook editions now. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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Also reviewed @ Lovely Treez Reads

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.