Friday, August 8, 2014

Book Review: Falling Into Place

Falling Into Place
Published By: Greenwillow Books
Publication Date: September 9, 2014
Page Count: 304
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via Edelweiss
Audience: Young Adult - Contemporary

There were two main things that drew me to this novel: the cover and the fact that the blurb recommended it to fans of Lauren Oliver, Gayle Forman, and Jay Asher. Aside from the memorable cover, I love all the authors mentioned in the blurb. I was hoping that this book would provide well written prose, emotional turmoil, and some sense of hope. I was pleasantly surprised to find all of these factors in addition to a creative structure and an intriguing choice of narrator. To make this even more alluring, it was written by a high school student. I was in awe of Amy Zhang's writing talent. 

The one thing that made this novel the most thought provoking for me is the main character. Liz is the definition of a mean girl. She is a bully and she plots to make other people miserable on a daily basis. Liz cares deeply about her friends, but she even manages to hurt them in unspeakable ways. Liz is not the sort of girl I would befriend; she is everything I despised about high school all wrapped into one pretty, damaged package. In spite of all of this, I did feel sorry for Liz, and that gave me pause. There are so many novels where bullying takes the forefront, but we typically get into the mind of the character experiencing the bullying. In Falling Into Place, we get into the mind of the bully. The timeline of the story bounces around from past to present so one can see the progression of Liz's fall into depression. I cannot in any way condone all the horrible things that Liz has done, but in the end, I could understand why she was so broken.

Liz is cracking under the burden of her guilt so she decides it is time to end things. Her solution is to fake a car accident; she hopes that nobody will realize she did it intentionally and she will die quickly. Things don't go as planned and Liz winds up clinging to the edge of life. As she lays in the hospital bed and the doctors work with indefatigable effort to save her, Liz's life story unfolds. I was confused about who was telling the story, but when the narrator's identity becomes clear I was shocked. I loved this little twist; it was very clever and added another layer of humanity to Liz.

The major thing I took away from this novel was the notion that appearances are deceiving. Everyone thinks Liz is the perfect girl with the perfect life. She's beautiful and popular, but inside she is withering. She feels as if her mother doesn't care enough to stay home. She feels like she is the reason her father is dead. She feels that her best friends' problems are the result of her actions. Liz sees that she spews suffering wherever she goes, but she can't find a way to atone for all that she has done. It makes me wonder how many times I have judged someone based on outward appearances. Many people in pain are amazing actors who never let their guard down in public. I'm also wondering how many students sitting in my classroom are hiding major issues behind a smile or sarcasm. 

Novels that hurt your heart and make you think are necessary from time to time. I didn't have the emotional gut wrenching feeling that came with If I Stay by Gayle Forman, but this one certainly made me take notice. Liz isn't a character that I will soon forget. I can only hope that I can learn from her mistakes and become better for having known her story. If you're in the mood for a powerful, emotional read - grab a copy of this one.

One Last Gripe: I didn't truly get a sense of closure concerning some of the characters. Liam, for example, is still on my mind. What is next for him? Does he go back to the way things were before Liz's accident?

Favorite Thing About This Book: You can't read this without considering why people bully. I think if more people noticed the signs - the little cries for help - we could stop bullying before it starts in many cases. I loved that this novel made me think in new ways.

First Sentence: On the day Liz Emerson tries to die, they had reviewed Newton's Laws of Motion in physics class.

Favorite Character: Liam

Least Favorite Character: Jake

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.


  1. I LOVED this book and gave it four stars, too
    I loved Amy Zhang's writing. Truly exceptional. And I did feel the same thing for Liam. I didn't know what would happen to him in the future, but I am hoping he will end up with Liz
    GREAT review
    Your reader,
    Soma R/

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it as much as I did. I was truly blown away that someone as young as Amy already writes with this much emotional power. I can't wait to see what else she will write.


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