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  • Published: 4 July 2023
  • ISBN: 9781776953400
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 240
  • RRP: $22.00

Catch a Falling Star

The compelling prequel to Catch Me When You Fall.

A fifteen-year-old reaches for stardom as he slides into psychosis.

Francesca – known to everyone as Frankie – has scored the part of Princess Fiona in the forthcoming musical production. Even though Jamie Orange has missed out on the part of Shrek, he’s happy:

The day I found out I was a donkey was one of the best days of my life.

He may not be Frankie’s leading man on stage, but he can still try to win her heart. However, all is not well with Jamie. He can’t sleep, he can’t stop his thoughts:

My brain was still wired, racing around in circles or spirals or – gah, it was driving me crazy. If only there was a magic switch so I could turn it off.

Bouncing between exultant highs and terrible lows, what will happen when this rising star starts to fall?

The compelling prequel to the bestselling Catch Me When You Fall:
‘My best pick for 2018 for young adults, the standout for me was Catch Me When You Fall . . . it's kind of heart-wrenching and really real and quirky and a great teen read.’ – James Russell, Radio NZ

  • Published: 4 July 2023
  • ISBN: 9781776953400
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 240
  • RRP: $22.00

About the author

Eileen Merriman

Eileen Merriman’s first young adult novel, Pieces of You, was published in 2017, and was a finalist in the NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults and a Storylines Notable Book. Since then, a stream of novels for adults and young adults have followed. She has received huge critical praise, with one reviewer saying: ‘Merriman is an instinctive storyteller with an innate sense of timing.’ In addition to being a regular finalist in the NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, Merriman was a finalist in the 2021 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel and Moonlight Sonata was longlisted for the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction 2020. Editions of some of her young adult novels have been released in Germany, Turkey and the UK and three have been optioned for film or TV, including the Black Spiral Trilogy.

Her other awards include runner-up in the 2018 Sunday Star-Times Short Story Award and third in the same award for three consecutive years previously. She works as a consultant haematologist at North Shore Hospital.

Also by Eileen Merriman

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Praise for Catch a Falling Star

This is Eileen Merriman’s thirteenth novel in seven years, and a prequel to Catch Me When You Fall, her second YA novel, published in 2018. Merriman rarely stops for a break; she’s also a consultant at North Shore Hospital, ideally placed to write about medical conditions with authority. And so she does. . . Catch a Falling Star brims with a restless, flickering energy. . . . In Catch Me When You Fall, Alexandria’s relationship with Jamie takes centre stage and his thoughts are inaccessible to the reader. This prequel fills that gap, providing the reader with Jamie’s point of view and revealing much more of his personality and struggles. Merriman has grown as a writer since she wrote the sequel. Catch a Falling Star is tauter, tense and convincing. It’s Jamie’s story – dark, bookish teenage drama.

Erica Stretton, Aotearoa New Zealand Review of Books

Why did this novel hit the nail for me so beautifully? It is character rich, the voice of Jamie so gripping, the dialogue on point, the pace of the narrative sweetly judged. On the one hand, you are caught up in heart-in-the-mouth vulnerability and decision making; it makes you care and it gives the narrative depth and complexity of heart. But it is also complex because it is rich in reference. . . . Catch a Falling Star is a sad, contemporary, thought-provoking, must-read story that revives you no matter how little sleep you have had! The word I take with me is hope, the image I hold is two teenagers bonding over books and coffee. Utterly riveting! Utterly humane.

Paula Green, NZ Poetry Shelf

From the very first pages, I was caught up in the manic pace of Jamie's life and mind as he tells his story in first person. He's very likeable, funny, clever, sweet, and chaotic. He's incredibly creative, but also his own worst enemy and I could almost feel his racing heart with all the Coke and coffee he consumes. Revelation of mental health problems in his family concern Jamie, but he doesn't ask his mum about it, who is already at her wits end with his erratic behaviour. But his spiral downwards is so gradual, his friends and family almost don't catch him in time. He is the most surprised by his fall out of anyone, after denying there was anything wrong over the past few months. This is almost painful to read as I watched his self destruction. Exams, the musical, his new relationship with Frankie. It was all supposed to be a bit crazy, wasn't it? His denial made everything even more real on the page. Catch a Falling Star is the Prequel to Catch me When You Fall, which I will be seeking out soon. It is the only Eileen Merriman YA novel I haven't read and I'm really looking forward to following Jamie's story. Merriman's skill in drawing me in never wanes. Her writing is so skillful, precise, and authentic, with engaging characters and narratives - every novel is a pure treat. (This novel has been approved by two specialists of mental health in young people)


Eileen Merriman is one of Aotearoa New Zealand's literary shining stars, with a prolific output of novels for young adults and books for adults. I've read most of her YA books and particularly love the contemporary stories which feature very real characters in recognisable situations. Seen regularly in the finalists of the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults and Storylines Notable Books lists, Merriman has a talent for writing books which move along at a good pace whilst reflecting real lives and issues. They must be such a great find for young readers who can see themselves and their peers in the pages of her books. That said, there are a good few trigger warnings to be aware of with suicide, self-harm and sexual assault all present and hopefully presenting opportunities for conversations and openness. But there is also friendship, young love, parental concern and lots of passion for music. . . . Another thought-provoking, realworld read for young adults by this very able writer.

Crissi Blair, Kete Books

Catch a Falling Star, expertly written by Eileen Merriman as a prequel to the highly regarded Catch Me When You Fall, had me in tears. This book is well-written, with language and plot that are easy to digest, but with themes that are anything but. I will admit that I have not read the sequel, but once I have composed myself, I absolutely will. . . . The characters are real, they make mistakes, and they say the things we have said, the things we wish we had said, and the things we wish we hadn’t. Throughout the story are characteristics specific to Aotearoa/New Zealand. These hints are so carefully placed and described that they become recognisable enough to locals, without forcing a sense of exclusion on the oblivious reader who didn’t grow up there. The realistic imagery and descriptions build authenticity to the story, especially the precise and truthful descriptions of struggles with mental health, something that so many readers can relate to in some way. The fast pacing of the story works in two ways—it makes the novel easy to devour, but it also reflects the pace of Jamie’s thoughts and how tiring it is for him to try and keep on top of his racing mind, as even the reader struggles to keep up. While there are a range of themes in this book, the main ones centre around struggles with mental health. This is tackled incredibly well for a book aimed at younger teenagers, dealing with these problems gently and yet without sugar-coating. This book is also about growing up and the differences between adult problems and kid problems. . . . If you enjoyed Eileen Merriman’s other books, such as Invisibly Breathing, I would absolutely recommend this book as it is written in much the same style and deals with similarly huge issues in manageable ways. For slightly older readers who read All the Bright Places, Catch a Falling Star has a lot of the same realness and relatability and explores similar themes, but does so in a slightly more accessible way. There are a few brief sexual scenes, and while there are definitely some potentially triggering themes of mental illness, sexual assault, and suicide, I think this book is hugely important and I would recommend it.

Stella Weston, The Sapling

Jamie's story is a brave and topical read that many young people facing low self-esteem and mental health challenges may appreciate.

Melissa Sparks, Magpies

Awards & recognition

Storylines Notable Book Award

Awarded  •  2023  •  Storylines Notable Young Adult Fiction

NZ Booklovers Award

Winner  •  2024  •  NZ Booklovers Award for Best Young Adult Fiction Book

NZ Booklovers Award

Shortlisted  •  2024  •  NZ Booklovers Award for Best Young Adult Fiction Book

Discover more

2023 Storylines Notable Books List

The highest quality books in five genres published between August 2022 and November 2023.