Source/Format: ARC from BEA14
Expected publication date: September 9th 2014 (tomorrow!)
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.
So many publishers and bloggers recommended this one that it was at the top of my BEA list – and I’m so grateful that I’ve read it.
You’ve probably heard the premise by now. Liz Emerson is a queen bee at her high school, the kind of popular Mean Girl that you have legitimate reason to hate because she destroys lives, her own included. The book starts with Liz’s attempt to commit suicide. What happens before, during, and after is told in fragmented pieces throughout the book.
The narrator of the book is an onlooker, someone who has followed Liz’s life for a long time. I think the identity of the narrator is supposed to be a bit of a twist, but honestly, it’s not much of one – and it doesn’t need to be. Whether you guess who the narrator is or not is not the point. What’s interesting about the narrator is the voice and insight he/she gives to Liz’s story.
This is a book written by an author who is wise beyond her years. I am completely floored that author Amy Zhang just graduated high school, and wrote this novel in high school. I’m even more impressed that the writing is not only honest and poignant, but also quite literary. The form of the novel follows the themes perfectly. The starkness of her writing strips all of her characters bare, down to their most secretive, knowing places, in bald contrast to the very public nature of Liz herself.
Because while Liz is your typical Mean Girl who drinks and makes out with lots of boys and is truly nasty, she’s also a desperately lonely person. I know a lot of bloggers said they couldn’t connect with her right away. She’s not the kind of person you feel sorry for. She pretty much defines the Me Generation. She certainly doesn’t have the nerdy life that I had in high school. And yet, the more you get to know her, the more you see her as a girl with so much potential and heart. Everything that has happened in her life has led her to this.
I feel like I’m spouting cliches here. But this book moved me and surprised me. I expected it to be very dark and depressing…and at certain points, it was. But with every moment of darkness, there was another fragment that gave us more of a clue to Liz’s character, and those pieces were fascinating to behold. The mystery of her character is what compelled me to keep reading.
Falling into Place is, at its heart, a character study of a deeply depressed and lonely person. But Zhang takes it up a notch and builds in very strong, layered secondary characters, especially in best friends Julia and Kennie. They are so much a part of who Liz is and what she became. What’s even more fascinating, though, is how people around her who didn’t know her that well also added to Liz’s character. The guy who called the ambulance. The kids who are playing cards at the hospital waiting to hear her diagnosis. The teens she bullied. Liz is not just the sum of her own parts, but what she’s touched and influenced throughout the years, and we see, again and again, how little ripples can change and shape a person.
Physics: Can I just applaud Zhang for using physics in such a clever and distinct way? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a science thread written like this before, and it’s quite brilliant. It’s not going to make you say “Wow, science!”, but it will, like the rest of the book, make you contemplate your own actions.
Stunning Writing: I mentioned already that this is a very literary book, but I couldn’t finish this review without adding in a quote or two, because the writing is just beautiful:
“When she threw her head back, she could see the sky bending away from her, and it seemed closer than usual. As though if she tried, she could snag a star on her fingernail, but she didn’t move.”
“It struck him that perhaps she thought just as many thoughts in a minute as he did, felt just as many emotions, inhaled and exhaled just as he did. And it was then that he began to fall in love with her for the second time, for the same reason that he had picked up his flute again: because he believed in broken things.”
The Final Word
Falling Into Place is a book to read when you need to look at life as clearly as possible. I didn’t cry at this book. Maybe you will. I was too busy thinking and processing and trying to figure out how to hold on to both the feeling I got while reading, and the feeling that I can be better, stronger, and kinder, with my own life.
FALLING INTO PLACE comes out tomorrow! Will you be picking up a copy? Have you been anticipating this one like I have? How dark or poignant do you like your YA? Are you as amazed as I am by the age of the author? Let me know in the comments!