The Fall: An Autobiography of an Alter Ego – A Review

the fall

Have you ever started reading a book so dark and seedy you wished you hadn’t started, but by the end of the first page you were so invested in the story you couldn’t stop?

That was my experience with The Fall:  An Autobiography of an Alter Ego.

I’m not sure what I was expecting when I sat down to read this ARC, but it wasn’t what I got.  It was better.  The author, simply known as Elle, expertly weaves a tale of personal destruction — both physical and emotional — and ultimate salvation.  This story will rip and claw its way into your heart and mind, even though you don’t want it to. There is so much heartache, so much abuse, so many drugs.  I wanted to hide and turn away from the reality of young Devon’s life, but I couldn’t.  I had to find out if she was going to be okay.  I had to find out if she was going to live.  Her journey shocked and surprised me.  It made me angry and made me weep.  More importantly, in the end, it made me hope.

The Fall:  An Autobiography of an Alter Ego follows the out of control life of a very vulnerable and lost fifteen-year-old girl by the name of Devon.  From the back cover:

Devon believed she had found her soul mate in Wil at the tender age of fifteen, but instead of weaving a beautiful love story, she and Wil spun a web of lies, abuse, and manipulation. After the tides of violence turned with such force that her alter ego emerged as her only guardian, Devon’s downward spiral hurtled her towards a dangerous decision she now has only one day to change before someone’s life ends.

Inspired by a true story, The Fall is a cautionary tale that explores dependencies, disorders, and domestic abuse from the vantage point of a young girl who at times must separate from herself entirely in order to endure. Devon wanders from the deep South to the bright lights of Hollywood as she navigates her personal capacity – and desire – to survive a life that has become imminently threatened by her own bad decisions.

​While the novel is dark and salacious at times, it is at its core a story of strength that can be a powerful and positive message to any young woman whose chosen path makes it difficult or painful to broach the question: “Who am I?

What did I love about this novel? 

Everything, from Devon’s voice, to Elle’s style of writing, to the plot line itself.  Devon and her entourage leapt off the pages.  I heard them, saw them.  I could smell their sweat and fear and taste the alcohol and drugs.  Never once in this spiraling, out-of-control story did I ever feel I was reading a book.  Not since The Fault in Our Stars have I read such a well-woven tapestry of words! 

The plot line was well thought out and executed.  The pacing was spot on.  I was a hundred pages in before I knew it.  I couldn’t put it down.  Despite the novel’s depravity, the writing was so brilliantly executed, so smart, I was compelled to read on.

What didn’t I like? 

The subject matter was depressing, sad.  I kept looking for the joke, the laughter, the uplift, but it never came, at least not in hefty doses.  The language was rough, and I was forced to remove the blinders and see a hidden truth that plagues too many young people in our society today.  It also made me face some of my own age-old demons that swarmed unexpectedly out of what I thought was a well-barricaded, forgotten closet.    

As I pondered my review, I wanted desperately to give this book 4 stars.  After all, there is no such thing as a perfect novel, but The Fall:  An Autobiography of an Alter Ego deserves nothing less than a solid 5 stars.  The writing is that good.  I am honored Elle provide me with an ARC to read before the official release on June 30, and I will most definitely keep my eyes open for any other books written by this author.

In closing, I urge you to head over to Goodreads and add The Fall:  An Autobiography of an Alter Ego to your TBR list.  Then scoot over to Elle’s website to see what she’s up to. There you can learn about a wonderful program in California called “Break the Cycle”.  It’s an agency that provides comprehensive dating abuse prevention programs exclusively to young people.

Want to meet Elle in person?  Look under her Media/Tour link to see if she’s going to be in your area.  You also can find Elle on Twitter and Facebook, so make sure you stop by and say hi.

Elle, thank you for writing such a provocative story.  I bow to your awesomeness.

Teens and the dangers and side effects of synthetic marijuana and bath salts

There’s a fad sweeping the country and it’s not a good one.

Everyday the news here in Florida is inundated with stories about synthetic drugs, mainly synthetic marijuana and bath salts.  Spice, K2, Ivory Wave – they’re marketed as legal marijuana “incense” and bath salts.  And the companies and people making them are targeting our kids.  Check out the packages below:


The packages are colorful with cartoons or ‘cool’ images that attract kids.  There are all different names:  K-2, Spice, Scooby Snax, Smiley’s, WTF, and Jazz to name a few. And the contents of these packages are killing kids and tearing families apart.

I read an article this morning about a 15-year old girl who was once into sports, always got good grades, enjoyed roller skating, fishing, camping, going to movies and going on hunting trips with her dad.  She was always the center of attention, very outgoing and outspoken.  Then one day she fell into the ‘wrong’ crowd.  She started to pull away from her family.  At first, the parents gave her space, thinking she was just growing up and was going through the typical ‘teen’ withdrawals.  But her behavior became worse and after a bit of ‘investigating’, her parents discovered their daughter was into Spice and K-2.  Her parents intervened but they kept running into walls because of the availability of the drug.  Their 15-year old daughter could walk into the local convenience store across the street from her high school, plunk down a couple of bucks and walk out with this ‘legal’ concoction known to make people hallucinate, have seizures and even die.  It is very frustrating to parents, doctors and law enforcement because these packages contain chemicals that scientists don’t really know what they are.  The manufactures go and change the chemicals as soon as the authorities make them illegal, thus making the synthetic drug legal again.

Teens using the drugs say it’s okay because “it’s legal”  Drug addicts use it because  it doesn’t show up in urine tests.  Others use excuses that alcohol and prescription drug use kill people and cause seizures too, so what’s the difference?

The difference is we know what the long terms effects of alcohol and  many drugs are and have developed help centers and rehab facilities to assist addicts to overcome the addictions.  Prescription drugs are developed and studied over long periods of time and are verified as safe for legitimate use.  Known side effects are listed.  Many times drugs are discontinued because long-term problems arise after 5 – 10 years of use.  In short, the prescription drugs are regulated.  With synthetic drugs, the formulas are always changing, which makes  medical treatment sketchy.

According to Crittenton Hospital Medical Center’s Director of Pharmacy Marc Guzzardo, “Everyone must know that these synthetic marijuana chemicals are much more dangerous than the active ingredient in marijuana.  They are much more toxic, more potent, more addictive and can result in adverse health effects in just minutes after smoking. You should not assume these products are safe or legal just because they are sold in stores.”

People every day, including teens, are being admitted to emergency rooms with seizures and rapid heart rates. Other common symptoms include paranoia, agitation, hallucinations, confusion, shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, vomiting, and nausea. Law enforcement officials and physicians have also reported violent behavior in people who indulge in these ‘legal’ drugs, propelling the user into violent rages that often result in physical harm to others as well as irreversible brain damage.  Many users also report their brains and/or skin feel like they’re on fire after smoking synthetic marijuana.  Because there is no oversight into the manufacturing of these ‘drugs’, the strength of the ‘spice’ can vary widely, causing users to react differently to different brands or batches. There have also been reports that these ‘legal’ drugs contain dangerous residues of heavy metals and acetone.

According to the National Institute om Drug Abuse (“NIDA”) 11.4% of high school seniors across the U.S have used synthetic marijuana.

If you are a parent and are concerned that your teen may be using synthetic drugs, watch out for rolling papers and plant materials that resemble incense or potpourri, and packages marked as bath salts.  Look for the mental and physical symptoms of use, too.  Side effects from synthetic bath salts include:

  • increased heart rate
  • agitation
  • lack of appetite
  • increased alertness and awareness
  • anxiety
  • muscle spasms
  • increased blood pressure
  • kidney failure
  • seizures
  • risk of renal failure
  • hallucinations
  • aggression
  • severe paranoia
  • panic attacks

Side effects from synthetic marijuana use include:

  • vomiting
  • loss of consciousness
  • elevated blood pressure
  • seizures
  • increased heart rate
  • agitation
  • dangerous hallucinations

Help is available if you suspect your teen is using synthetic marijuana or bath salts.  In Florida, Operation Par provides help with substance abuse problems.  Treatment varies depending on each case and the cost depends on the plan the child is enrolled in.  Sliding scales are often implemented for those on limited incomes.  There are also rehab centers across the nation who are now offering programs to teens addicted to synthetic marijuana and bath salts.

My loving message to teens

As a lot of you know, I’m a Wizard101 fanatic.  I like this game for several reasons: (1) the game centers around a school of wizardry.  Harry Potterish – yes, but the game is quite different.  (2) I have met some really interesting people, both young and old, on this game, two of which turned out to be aspiring authors, and (3) I get to participate in a lot of online discussions with young people and teens (yes, they know I’m a parent).

Late last night I was playing the game when another player joined in a battle I was in.  After we chatted for a while, moving from one level to the next in a dungeon, she said she was a teen, and then decided to tell me she was very, very angry with her mom because her mom snooped in her room and found some pot.   Her mom also went through some other things in her room and took some things away.  She couldn’t get over the fact that her mom was so disrespectful of her privacy and it wasn’t like she was “doing crack or something.”

I offered my ‘ear’ and listened, but gave no advice.  You have to be careful in these online games.  However, it got me thinking after I logged off.  Part of me sympathized with her.  I remember times as a teen feeling angry at my mom for reading my diary and going through my things, especially since I was a ‘good girl’.  I didn’t smoke, drink, sneak out of the house.  I was an honor roll kid, polite, a member of Who’s Who Among American High School Students.  I was a goody two shoes.  In that sense, I could relate to this poor girl’s feelings of betrayal.  There should be a room in a home where kids can go and feel safe, that their things are their things.

But then the mom in me kicked in.  Her mom was probably worried, scared.  She probably noticed a change in her daughter that she couldn’t pin point.  Maybe her mom tried to talk to her and the daughter withdrew.  Maybe there was a horrible relationship there to begin with.  Maybe, mom is just a snoop and wanted to know everything and anything going on in her daughter’s life.

My mom told me once:

“You live in my house. You have no privacy.”

That always stuck with me.  “You live in my house.”  To a teen, that one word ‘my’ can make one feel so isolated, like a visitor in your own home.  I remember thinking then, “I thought this was our home.”  Sad thing is, I’ve said the same thing to my kids, but I digress.

To the young girl online and to all other teens, please listen up.  Parents aren’t perfect.  We make mistakes.  We say things perhaps we shouldn’t say, but there is one thing that holds steady for 99% of us – we love you.  We care about you and what happens to you.  Sometimes we have to rely on our gut instincts, especially if our kids aren’t honest and opening up to us.  Don’t get me wrong.  I totally get it.  I was a teen once, too.  That’s why you as a teen are at such a disadvantage.  You can’t see both sides of the coin.  While it may make you angry that your parents snoop and interfere, try to imagine your life with parents who didn’t care what you did or where you went or who you went with.  Love makes us do some extreme things.  Our only thoughts are to keep you safe.  And while we know we can’t protect you from everything, that doesn’t stop us from trying.

As for the pot:  I’m not going to preach.  I’d be a liar to say I didn’t try it when I got older.  I can’t tell you I didn’t get involved with the wrong crowd in my early 20s.  I can’t say I didn’t do other drugs I wish I hadn’t done.  There was a time in my life I felt so alone, like there was no way out.  A time when I felt no one loved me or needed me.  A time when I wanted to forget…to not feel the pain.

But I was wrong.  Oh, God, how I was wrong.  To all you precious, unique and beautiful teens…you may think pot is okay, but it’s not.  It’s a band aid, sweetheart.  Getting high, whether with drugs or alcohol, is not the answer.  I know.  I’ve been there.  If you can’t talk to your parents about what’s bugging you, find someone you can talk to.  Drugs aren’t the answer.  Believe me.  Someday you’ll meet someone who cares about you and loves you, and someday you will have children of your own.  Someday, you’ll understand what it means to love someone so much that you would lay down your life to protect him or her.  That’s the life of a parent. That’s the pain we live with every day.  We worry. We love.  We care.

Please, don’t be angry for our interfering.  Instead, be thankful you have someone who loves you enough to interfere.  You are blessed more than you know.  I wish you all the best.  (((hugs))).