September 5, 2014

Review: Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang

Title: Falling Into Place
Author: Amy Zhang
Release Date: September 9th, 2014
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Page Count: 304
Source: ARC from BEA
(I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest
review. No favors were exchanged, my opinions are my own.)

First Reaction: I... have a lot of feels...
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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?

[Summary Source: Goodreads]


At the very start of this book, Liz Emerson decides to go on a long drive very much out of her way and attempts to kill herself by driving her car through the guardrail. Only, Liz doesn't die on impact. Instead, a team of doctors attempt to put her back together and her body attempts to heal itself. However, while this series of events is the catalyst for the story, this book isn't really about the attempted suicide. It's about how we got to this point. Told from the POV of an unexpected narrator, this book jumps back and forth in time to paint a picture of who Liz is and how everyone in her life bounces up against her. It's one giant puzzle of how people affect other people and how it's all really just a lot of physics if you look at it the right way. (Although, I'd say the series of questions at the end of the synopsis above says a lot of what I just said a lot more eloquently, so go with that).

As noted in my first reaction, this book provided me with many, many feels. On the one hand, I felt for Liz. She was so isolated and stuck in her ways. She felt like she couldn't ask for help because she wasn't worthy of help. She wanted to get better but she had to believe she could get better. And she just couldn't do that. All of this made me sad. It made me want to reach through the pages and help Liz. It made me wish for so many things for her.

But on the other hand, Liz was still this giant bully. As much as she was hurting, she was still so terribly mean and, as a girl who was bullied much in the way Liz bullied others, I hated her. I hated her so much I didn't care what happened to her. And, while I appreciated the peek into the psychology of a mean girl, I did that thing where I tried to apply it to the people who bullied me and it just didn't work. And I don't think all bullies are created equal, but at the same time, the fact that I couldn't match it up right makes me hate Liz even more for being this exceptionally complicated bully.

Anyway, all of that last paragraph was very complicated and very personal and a very serious indication of me needing brain/feels help but the bottom line really is this: Falling Into Place made me feel all these feels. I didn't have a choice. It just swept me up in its quiet way and had its way with me. I may not have been happy the whole time, but I was feeling and thinking all these things, which is how I know this is a good book.

I also know it's a good book because I loved and felt for the other characters aside from Liz. Julia, who's all tied up in drugs and can't untangle herself. Kennie, who made a choice against her will even though she had no other choice and has been so broken since. Liam, who shouldn't love who he loves but can't help himself. Monica, who doesn't know how to approach her daughter, Liz, and may live to regret it.

Another way I know for sure this is a good book is that the writing is amazing. It's so quotable and perfect but I won't quote any of it because I want you all to read it as you go and take in every word in the order it's placed in the book. Not to mention, the themes in this book - the high school social constructs + the deep understanding of the inner workings of so many incredibly different people who live such unbelievably different lives - make me honestly think Amy Zhang is a wizard or a shapeshifter or something. I mean, how else would she know? How could she make me feel for a bully and her victim? How can she make a bully and her victim also somehow be the same person? Wizardry, I tell you. Magic and more.

I just... there's too much thinking and far too many feels... and despite the number of times I use the word "too," I don't mean it, there's never too much, I love all of it. And if you love introspective, thoughtful YA contemporary along the lines of Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver or If I Stay by Gayle Forman (AKA the comparative titles suggested by the publisher - Gosh HarperCollins you're so smart) you'll definitely love Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang.