Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang
Greenwillow Books, 2014
[Goodreads] [Book Depository]
On the day Liz Emerson tries to die, they had reviewed Newton’s laws of motion in physics class. Then, after school, she put them into practice by running her Mercedes off the road.
Why? Why did Liz Emerson decide that the world would be better off without her? Why did she give up? Vividly told by an unexpected and surprising narrator, this heartbreaking and nonlinear novel pieces together the short and devastating life of Meridian High’s most popular junior girl. Mass, acceleration, momentum, force—Liz didn’t understand it in physics, and even as her Mercedes hurtles toward the tree, she doesn’t understand it now. How do we impact one another? How do our actions reverberate? What does it mean to be a friend? To love someone? To be a daughter? Or a mother? Is life truly more than cause and effect? Amy Zhang’s haunting and universal story will appeal to fans of Lauren Oliver, Gayle Forman, and Jay Asher.
Falling Into Place has been on my radar for a long time, back when the book was still untitled and didn’t have a blurb. It’s odd for a book to get so much pre-release press without any actual information available, and it definitely piqued my interest. So when I saw the book available for request on Edelweiss, I immediately jumped at the chance to read it, particularly since the blurb sounded completely different from anything I’d ever read before. And while the book took a bit to work for me personally – I’ll get into my reasons why in a second – ultimately it left me feeling pretty satisfied overall and more than willing to lend my own recommendation to the ones it’s already racked up.
First of all, I want to say that this book is not told in your usual style. The nonlinear storytelling might put some people off, and the multiple points of view take a bit of time to adjust to. The entire book is set around Liz Emerson’s attempted suicide, and you don’t learn until the very end what the ultimate outcome of her choice is. The book is told via flashbacks to her childhood (told by a seeming imaginary friend who maybe isn’t actually all that imaginary?), Liz’s own point of view leading up to the accident, plus chapters from her best friends’ points of view as well as the boy who has a crush on her. They’re all kind of erratically placed and don’t have much flow, so it took a bit for the story to gel for me personally. But things finally started to come together, and I think that fractured style of storytelling actually really worked in the long run, because Liz herself is such a mess. It only makes sense that her story is a bit of a mess as well.
There are a lot of poignant lines and moments of clarity as Liz slowly comes to realize that she’s been a really terrible person to most of the people around her. Truthfully I never actually felt sorry for her – she made her choices and her reasons for them didn’t really work for me. In fact, I didn’t really connect with any of the characters; they’re all deeply flawed (except for maybe Liam), and all do really unlikable things to others, and I just felt sort of horrified by their choices and lots of secondhand embarrassment for their victims. And yet the story is extremely compelling; I wanted to know what the ultimate outcome would be, and how things might be resolved. The truth is, the ending is a bit ambiguous in terms of all the issues brought up by all the different narrators, and nothing is really nicely tied up. This is good, because life isn’t nice and neat, but might frustrate some people who just want to know what happened. I thought it worked, but, again, am well aware that might not be the case for everyone.
All in all, I’m glad I gave Falling Into Place a go. I think there are some very important themes found within its pages, and would particularly recommend this one to the middle/high school age group just because of the subject matter and the whole importance placed on bullying and its effects. There are some adult themes here – drug use, alcohol abuse, teenage pregnancy, etc. – but they were handled well and really used to show how badly peer pressure can turn you into something you don’t want to be, which is really the crux of this entire book. It’s also a really fast read, so if you’re interested at all in this one, I’d definitely say go for it. I personally think it’s well worth the read!
An e-galley was provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
I agree. This ones been on my radar forever and I’ve been dying to get my hands on it. It just seems like such a ‘me’ read and I’m glad you enjoyed it! Great review :)
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