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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 259

A Step Toward Falling by Cammie McGovern is a novel told from the point of view of two main female protagonists: Emily and Belinda. The novel contains many important themes that are relevant to high school students. Some of these themes include learning from your mistakes, the harmfulness of stereotypes, and the idea that disabled people are more than their disabilities.

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In the novel, Emily and Lucas are required to do community service because they witnessed Belinda being assaulted and did nothing to intervene. Throughout her time doing community service, Emily learns from her mistakes and learns to see Belinda as a whole, complex person that is more than just her disability. At one point in the story, Emily narrates:

It surprised me because she put it as well (or better) than I could have and made a simple point she didn’t even intend: being disabled wasn’t the main thing about her.

She also urges her classmates to stop using the word "retarded" in a derogatory way, and notes:

For years this has been a standard insult I've heard often, but I'm shocked at how wrong this suddenly sounds to me.

Both of these quotes demonstrate the themes listed above. They show that Emily is able to learn, grow, and reflect based on her mistakes, admit that she was wrong before and try to be a better person. They also show the harm that stereotypes cause, and the fact that disabled people are much more complex than their disability, and need to be seen as whole people.

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