Book Review: Rise by Hallie Schaefer

I know, I know, it’s TUESDAY, but seriously? Yesterday was Christmas. Nobody was reading this yesterday anyway. Besides, I’m behind on book reviews, so I can’t afford to skip a week now! 

I met Hallie through a friend who is still friends with an old high school friend I lost touch with over the years (did you keep up with that??) who she married. So she’s the wife of the friend… anyway… I am ALWAYS excited to meet fellow authors and when I found out her first novel was coming out, of course I contacted her and asked if I could review it! 

She SO graciously allowed me to read this book and review it. I have to be honest, I’m really excited about her future. She’s got an eye for storylines and with an injection of a little more writerly bravery, she’s going to write some seriously great stuff because her passion is revealing the dark underbelly of human trafficking. We need as many people spreading the word about it as possible and sometimes, a little story is what we need to light our own fires. 

So, without further ado, my review of RISE.  

What the book is about: 

Rise is a Christian fiction book that follows 3 women whose lives intersect in various ways with human trafficking, specifically sex slaves.

Dembe is kidnapped from her village in Uganda and sold, then brought to America. Julie fights against trafficking. Lauren runs into a tough spot and finds herself accidentally creeping into the industry as a lure.

What I liked: 

  • The overall arc: I found the converging storylines to be very interesting, actually. I wasn’t initially sure how they would weave together (or IF they actually would), but the overall story arc was quite good.
  • Dembe: I literally heard every line of hers in my head with a kind of staccato accent and I LOVED it.
  • The background noise: There was a lot going on in the book that kept the pace moving and was interesting. I liked the variety of tertiary characters.
  • The final wrap up: I don’t want to say TOO much here for those who haven’t read it, but I enjoyed how things wrapped up in the book. There were some very heartwarming things and some definitely gut-wrenching things and overall, I think it ended well.
  • The cliffhanger: Whaaaat? Come on, Hallie! Not fair! (just kidding, I loved it!)

What I didn’t like: 

  • Pacing: A LOT happens in the book and there are some gigantic leaps and I found myself losing track of when things were happening. There are moments where TONS of action happens and others where summaries replace action. Just a little more push and pull than I like to have in a novel.
  • Missed opportunities to draw readers in: Because of the subject matter, it can be really hard to dive into the underbelly of trafficking, but I think that’s precisely what the book needed. I felt that there was too much recapping of previous action instead of walking through the action itself and I was disappointed to not experience a lot of the nitty gritty with the characters. There were places that it was brilliantly done (after John’s birthday party? Anyone?) but there were some spots where it was definitely missing.
  • POV: It was written as omniscient, and I wasn’t in love with that choice. It gave me a little too much of everybody’s thoughts when I think I would have preferred, again, to see the action and decide for myself what others were feeling.

Overall thoughts and opinions: 

Knowing that this is a first novel, I’m not all that surprised by some of the things I didn’t like. Every single writer ever has done these things, yes, even me.

I like the the bold subject matter and I would like to see even MORE boldness with it. I don’t mean shock just for the sake of shocking readers, but I mean really revealing what it’s like to be in there.

The best character arc is Lauren – she seems to be the character the author was most comfortable with and it shows. I feel like I got to know her the best, I experienced more nitty gritty real scenes with her, and got to dive into her thoughts.

Dembe’s character arc had the potential to be really strong and it just missed by a hair, and if I had to guess, this was due to some discomfort in diving into that underbelly. Had we been able to experience some of the more awful things with Dembe, that would have been better.

Julie felt a tiny bit too perfect for me. She has some hinted at demons, but we never really get to see them. It says she was always too busy for relationships, but I never buy that. You’re only too busy for a relationship when you’re trying (even unconsciously) to avoid them.

For a first novel, I think it’s okay. There are signs in there of some really good stuff, good books, good material in the future. The boldness that will come with time and experience and age combined with Hallie’s eye for naturally good and interesting storylines will make her a powerful writer.

Given all of this, I give Rise 3 stars. Despite some of its issues, I still think it’s worth reading.

3 star rating

Learn more about the book and the author.

I received a free copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.


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