Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang
Greenwillow Books (an imprint of Harper), 304 pages
US Release Date: September 9, 2014
Format/Source: ARC, via Harper at ALA - thank you!
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.
She wanted to know how Galileo and Newton and Einstein discovered the things they discovered. She wanted to know how they could have lived in the exact same world as everyone else but see things that no one else did.
There was so, so much hype about this book that it was one of the few I was on the hunt for when I was at ALA. I stalked the Harper Booth and bothered every rep I could find to see if they had a signing or giveaway set up (Hi Martha!), and I may have squealed a bit when I finally got it in my hands. Maybe.
And I wish I could say I loved it as hard and as fiercely as everyone else seemed to. I’m not saying I didn’t like it—no, I actually liked it quite a bit. Even loved some parts. And I definitely get why so many wept and clutched at this book. But it just didn’t for me, and I’m a bit sad about it.
The thing I have, have, HAVE to talk about is the structure of this book. Sometimes non-linear storylines completely blow it and make everything confusing, but this one just worked. It fit so well into the style, into the feeling of the story, into the erratic, depressed nature of Liz Emerson. I loved the chapter titles, how it was a timeline without being a timeline and still actually, literally, being a timeline. It was lovely and my absolute favourite element to Falling Into Place.
The narrator was also a pleasant surprise. I’m not going to ruin who it is, but it was a fantastic device from the storyteller and reader view. It was smart, and completely sensible.
I really don’t like Liz Emerson. She is the type of bitch we all hated in high school, one of those untouchables who seems to get away with everything while being the cause of it, too. But I liked her as a character. She was full and faulted and heartbreakingly aware of how terrible of a person she had been. Her and her friends, Julia and Kennie, are a perfect portrayal of High School Royalty, the clique with it all that we wanted to tear into. Even though they were despicable, the writing of them was not, and I liked that.
Falling Into Place is so absolutely sad, the more we learn about Liz and her psyche and what is causing her to slide on the ice and wrap her car around a tree. There’s this heartbreaking feeling of vacancy and voids and hopelessness that permeates everything, and it just tugs at you and sucks you into this story. I hate Liz (as evident), but I felt so much for her. The writing is so poetic in it’s style, and it gets you straight through the soul into the core of your feelings. I’m not going to admit just how close this novel hits home for me (that’s a whole different story of my own), but there are parts that made me speechless and breathless in despair.
So what was it exactly that made me not like it as much as others? I honestly have no clue. I didn’t cry. I didn’t have to put the book down, and I didn’t read it in one sitting. But I cannot give any real reason why that is! So I’ve decided that this book is, in fact, pretty damn brilliant. It just wasn’t for me personally, and I won’t hold that against Amy Zhang or Falling Into Place. You should read this. I think everyone needs to read this, to experience the fantastic writing and structure and story. To know Liz, and maybe not like her, but to feel her story.
As a side note, I met Amy at ALA, and she was wonderful and sweet and deserves every bit of praise she’s getting for this debut. High school?! I cannot wait to see what this girl has in store for us.