Jennie Wexler (Author
July 6, 2021
Blurb: A Sliding Doors-esque novel that reveals how our choices define us and how no matter the road, love can find its way.
Stevie Rosenstein has never made a true friend. Never fallen in love. Moved from city to city by her father’s unrelenting job, it’s too hard to care for someone. Trust in anything. The pain of leaving always hurts too much. But she’ll soon learn to trust, to love.
Drew and Shane have been best friends through everything. The painful death of Shane’s dad. The bitter separation of Drew’s parents. Through sleepaway camps and family heartache, basketball games and immeasurable loss, they’ve always been there for each other.
When Stevie meets Drew and Shane, life should go on as normal.
But a simple coin toss alters the course of their year in profound and unexpected ways.
Told in dual timelines, debut author Jennie Wexler’s Where It All Lands delivers a heartbreaking and hopeful novel about missed opportunities, second chances, and all the paths that lead us to where we are.
Heads, you win; tails, you lose. What if everything hinged on the way the coin fell? How different would the results be? That is the premise in Jennie Wexler’s Where It All Lands.
Drew and Shane see Stevie Rosenstein on the first day of band practice and both decide they want to ask her out. Drew falls back on the habit they’ve always had to avoid arguments: toss a coin. Heads, he gets to ask Stevie out; tails, Shane does. In the first iteration of the story, the coin lands on heads and the reader follows the consequences of this. In the second part, the coin lands on tails and it becomes Shane’s story. At the point of the story’s climax in both novellas, the chapters alternate between the “Heads” story and the “Tails” story until an inconclusive ending that the reader is supposed to guess at.
Besides music, Drew, Shane, and Stevie share some pretty hefty daddy issues. Drew’s dad seems to be more interested in his career in music than in his family; Shane’s father has died causing an expected chasm; and Stevie’s dad is a professional offensive football coach who finds himself frequently out of a job and moving to the next one, taking his family with him, which results in Stevie feeling like she never fits it. Much to Shane’s chagrin, neither Drew nor Stevie appreciate the fact that they still have a living father in their lives. Their issues with their fathers predominate in a repetitious fashion.
In the “Heads” side of the story, melodrama rules and this is never so apparent as when one listens to the audio version. All of the self-absorbed tirades and whining is kind of painful when it’s performed. The relationship between Drew and Stevie seems destructive and there’s little in the way of character development until after the “significant event.”
The “Tails” version is a lot more palatable. In both versions, Shane is my favorite character. He has it more together and seems to work on himself as a person and is open to other people. His relationship with Stevie is sweet. I think that this version really could have raised the novel above average if the author had understood how important it was to have the characters progress, change, evolve, and have a different outcome than having to pass through the predetermined “significant event.”
Now I’ve thought about the format quite a bit since I finished reading. The format of presenting both versions hinging on the same significant event seemed clunky. It meant repetition. It also signified that, regardless of what decision you make, some events will occur either way–which I don’t buy. In the “Tails” version everything has built to a scene at All-State (the music contest Stevie and Shane have prepared for and attend) to show Stevie’s elevated confidence and it could have been such an empowering scene but the author decided to adhere to the same “significant” event needing to happen. And the reader finds themselves at a tragic situation instead of something better. A lost opportunity to have an inspiring moment, I think. Evidently, it was better to stick with melodrama than have a feel-good moment.
Also built way out of context is the coin toss and the expected and actual reaction to it. With all of the hand-wringing, you would have expected it was something much bigger than it is when examined. Two guys tossed a coin to see who would ask a girl out. The decision was still left to the girl. The guys weren’t in control. Stevie’s reaction when discovering they tossed a coin was an over-reaction. In some ways, that over-reaction is a continuing issue with the novel with so many over-the-top emotions and melodrama.
Where It All Lands is also a novel that incorporates quite a bit of music. If you follow me, you know that makes me a happy camper. One of my favorite groups, Pearl Jam, features quite significantly, especially their album “10.” I did wonder, however, why these three teenager weren’t listening to anything contemporary and why when someone contemporary, Taylor Swift, comes on the radio they take it as an opportunity to diss her despite the fact that she continues to push creative boundaries. Good music is always being made, and I would have presumed music nerds would have been on top of it.
Where It All Lands is a very ambitious debut novel, one that lovers of angst will completely adore. I loved the “what-if” ideas but wished they’d been examined further. It is definitely a novel that begs you to keep turning pages as you see that one decision can completely change a life.
I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
3 out of 5 butterflies