Lucinda Price, or Luce for short, has been blamed for a fire that killed her crush Trevor. But Luce knows it was these shadows that have followed her around as long as she can remember, and which are invisible to everyone but her. She is sent to a reform school named Sword & Cross, that has under 100 students. There are big rules, snotty teachers, not very good food for a vegetarian like her, and even conspicuous security cameras. She can't help but have a bat tingly feeling about this place, but it seems to go away when she eyes a teenager named Daniel Grigori, who seems to have the shadows run away from whenever he's near her, and Luce can't help but feel a strange familiarity to Daniel, who seems to be keeping something secret.
Right away, within only the first fifth of the book, there was a problem that stuck out badly. At this institution, Luce has to hand over her phone. The only allowed contact to the outside world is a 15-minute phone call every week, that is if the friend or relative will even show up. And after a week, Luce is finally able to talk to her mom and she asks her why she hasn't answered her many texts and voicemails. But instead of answering, Luce talks about these cute boys. And once the 15 minutes are up, she doesn't even acknowledge that she might have messed up. I get that not every author has the same thoughts as me as to what's important and I might be picky at this point, but something I really don't like is a corrupt education system, and we can see right away that Luce doesn't like it here. And there's no consequence shown for Luce revealing the rule to her parents. Maybe they could've forced the school to give her phone back, as a mild retribution. That's what I would do. But that's the least of this book's problems.
Luce has a crush on the wrong person. Right away, there's a boy that gives her attention, jokes, and smiles, a guy named Cam. And yet Luce keeps thinking about the blonde-haired distant Daniel and she keeps leaving her friends to try to see if he will talk to her. And Daniel ends up just shooing her off, staring at her like a waitress that threw up all over his baseball steak. Not only that, Luce will think about Daniel at least three times during every chapter after his introduction. I understand that there's a difference between love and attraction for some people, but for me, if I had a crush on someone and then they embarrassed me with a swift rejection, then the sight or thought of that person would just make me sick, and my attraction would demolish. The book attempts to eventually try to make you understand there's a fantasy element to this, but that doesn't make what we had to go through any more forgiving.
Something else that this book has a problem with is overshadowing. When a certain element of the book overshadows the other. I could see the potential here, and at this point I might sound like a teacher saying that excuse to a student. There's a mystery here with some ideas that could've got me thinking, but the book just resorts to keep reminding us of Luce's unrequited crush and it just got petulant and annoying, preventing my interest from spiking. I don't hate it when a book has lots of romance all the time. Some examples of books with lots of romance that I like are One Man Guy, Miss Peregrine's, The Taking, A Shadow Bright and Burning, and Reboot. Those books had non-over-the-top couples that had a love story that didn't get in the way of the outside story and instead added to the suspense of the whole thing. It's just hard to take Luce seriously when in her mind she keeps thinking "I can't stop picturing the adorable Daniel" or "his shirtless neck (even though it's a neck...)" or "I feel safe in this guy's arms (even though the guy that's holding her was just acting like a psychopath a few moments ago...that really happened). What's with these strange shadows? What was that thing Luce thought she saw on the other side of the pool? How can these friends of hers have such giant strength? I wasn't interested because of my impatience of the overshadowed "romance".
The characters are...alright. They're kind of memorable. If the side characters were replaced with the side characters in the Grisha trilogy, who really weren't as memorable, then that book series would've been a little better.
The book also attempts to get you interested in the next book, Torment at the end, and the book is not as hard to get through as the 300 paged disastrous The Infinite Sea. But by the time the book attempted to entertain me, I was as past forgiveness as Daniel's curse. Fallen falls flat, and if I ever decide to read the next book, it'll be because I'm looking for some worst-of-the-year material thanks to its disastrous predecessor.