Published by Greenwillow Books on September 9th, 2014
Genres: contemporary, young adult
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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? Amy Zhang’s haunting and universal story will appeal to fans of Lauren Oliver, Gayle Forman, and Jay Asher.
This review is surprisingly difficult to write. I found myself really enjoying the reading experience of Falling Into Place but I’m just not sure about what to say. I know how I feel about it, but it’s just not easy putting it into words.
I guess my problem is that there’s no “best part” of this book. The writing was incredible. There were so many moving passages and Amy Zhang just has this talent for putting words in exactly the right places. The use of the narrator’s voice was perfect; this is told in the first person, but from an omniscient point of view (more on this later.) The narrator’s true identity is kept secret, though it’s easy to figure out pretty early on. You can tell this narrator cares deeply for Liz and though they don’t get to say much about themselves, their pain is very apparent, especially towards the end when the big ‘reveal’ happens. Finally, the way it’s written, on different timelines, in the present and through flashbacks way into the past and just minutes before the crash, helped give this story weight and a sense of apprehension. You want to know why, what exactly brought Liz to this point.
There aren’t many likable characters in this book. Not even Liz, the “main” character who tries to kill herself by crashing her car. Liz and her best friends Julia and Kennie are quite the popular trio and they didn’t get there by being affable and compassionate. Liz especially is great at tearing people down and ruining lives. So on one hand, you never ever want anyone to do what she does to herself, but at the same time it’s hard to like her and it’s hard to understand her. Julia and Kennie are much more easily understood and finally liked; they’re much more vulnerable and they themselves have fallen victim to Liz’s antics. The only really likable character in the book is Liam, the witness to the crash, a boy who has been crushing on Liz for years. I liked him because he was forgiving and he seemed like a decent person, but I just didn’t understand the connections between him and Kennie, Julia, and Liz’s mom. It felt strange for the four of them to be embracing, especially considering Liam’s past with Liz, Kennie and Julia.
The pages just fly by when reading Falling Into Place. It’s no easy feat to take something so depressing and harrowing and making it easy to read, but Amy Zhang did it. Throughout the story, we’re given glimpses into high school life and the book covers serious topics like drug addiction, teen pregnancy, and even rape. I felt like it was an honest portrayal of what life is like in high school – not that the portrayals of readerly type girls who abstain from sex and drugs aren’t realistic, I just feel like there is more than one type of girl and they all deserve their representation. The blurb is not kidding when it says Falling Into Place is a good readalike for fans of If I Stay and 13 Reasons Why. It is moving and heartbreaking and beautifully written, and I’d say it’s better than either of those books any day.
(I said I’d talk about the narrator, so here goes. View Spoiler » The narrator is Liz’s childhood imaginary friend. I thought this was really, really clever and an imaginative way to tell this story. However, it doesn’t make sense that Liz’s imaginary friend (and that’s all the narrator is – not a ghost or spirit or anything like that) would know the ins and outs of Julia’s and Kennie’s private lives and pasts. Liz’s imaginary friend would not know anything outside of Liz. I don’t know. I liked it, but at the same time, it wasn’t perfect. « Hide Spoiler)