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Book Review: Fasten Your Seatbelt And Remain Seated For T.J. Newman's 'Falling'

Today I’m telling you about a debut novel by T.J. Newman called Falling. And the first thing you should know is this: Don’t read this book on a plane. Don’t pick it up in an airport bookstore. This hijack thriller reads like a summer action-adventure movie, like something starring Harrison Ford or Nicholas Cage. A heart-thumping adrenaline rush at 30,000 feet.

Here’s the premise: Shortly before commercial airline pilot Bill Hoffman boards his flight from Los Angeles to New York City, his wife and two children are kidnapped and strapped to explosives. Once the plane is airborne, the kidnapper gives Bill a choice: Crash the plane and save your family, or land the plane safely and your family dies.

That’s all I’m going to tell you, except this: Newman, the author, spent 10 years as a flight attendant. She started working on the novel during quiet moments on red-eye flights, and that inside knowledge and experience definitely adds depth and humanity to the book.

Newman moves the plot along fairly seamlessly using various perspectives -- the plane in the air, the hostage situation on the ground, and the peripheral investigators and air traffic controllers who try to defuse the situation and save lives. I listened to the book on audio, and it kept me going. There were several developments I didn’t see coming, and action-packed scenes that had me cheering for the characters. That said, there were also some major eye-rolls here—cheesy dialogue and over-the-top plot twists. The kidnapper’s motivation is problematic as well.

Still, I enjoyed this novel. Falling is a thrill ride that makes for a more-than-decent summertime read. But seriously, don’t take it on the plane.

Suzanne Perez is a longtime journalist covering education and general news for KMUW and the Kansas News Service. Suzanne reviews new books for KMUW and is the co-host with Beth Golay of the Books & Whatnot podcast. Follow her on Twitter @SuzPerezICT.