The Falconer by Dana Czapnik

The Falconer is a coming of age novel with a vivid New York City in the early 90s setting. Lucy Adler is seventeen, a basketball player, applying to college, and in unrequited love with her best friend, the rich and self-assured Percy. She’s searching for how she can be herself—not one of the ‘girl’ stereotypes but a rounded, complex person—whilst discovering philosophy and feminism and realising she has a supportive network of similarly complex women.

The novel is exciting and sharp, with Lucy’s narrative voice capturing her personality as someone torn between contradictions, trying to be cynical and romantic, self-confident and insecure. The importance of New York City as the place she has grown up, a place full of memories, and a place she will eventually leave is vital, and Czapnik uses almost stream of consciousness parts to show Lucy’s thoughts as she travels down familiar streets, building up a rich layer of memory. Lucy tries to work out her desire for male approval and the difficulty of wanting to be seen for who she is, not either as a sports-playing ‘one of the boys’ or as a girl who doesn’t fit what she feels are usual standards of beauty, and this element of the novel gives it a powerful message about growing up, identity, and gender.

With The Falconer, Czapnik seems to have captured a character who will resonate with a lot of people whilst also creating a depiction of NYC from the perspective of someone who has grown up there and both loves and hates it.