Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang
Summary: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?
Falling into Place by Amy Zhang is an incredibly well-done debut, and Amy Zhang has definitely met my expectations with this. A mash-up of Gayle Forman’s If I Stay and Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall, Falling into Place brews with emotion and sensitivity.
Falling into Place isn’t necessarily a new story, but it’s powerful and emotional all the same. In this novel, we follow high school Queen Bee Liz Emerson as she crashes her car and tries to commit suicide. As us readers question why she has killed herself, we look for answers in Liz’s past via flashbacks, and in the present as we see the effect her suicide has on those who know her.
Zhang has an absolutely lyrical writing style. Her way of stringing words together is gorgeous, and I was completely captivated in her writing. However, I did feel she told more than she showed, especially when it came to discussing the characters. Everything we knew about them was because Zhang told us so rather than figuring it out for ourselves.
The characters in this book definitely had the potential to be cliched and/or one-dimensional; yet, thankfully, Zhang makes them all wonderfully complex and developed.
As a protagonist, Liz was a bit hard to connect to for the majority of the story. She’s your stereotypical “popular” girl. She bullied other people, she gets drunk constantly, she thinks she’s better then everyone else because of her social status. I never really felt it was easy to connect to her because she made such horrible choices and did such horrible things to people. I did respect her change of heart and her realization that what she had done has hurt so many people, but that came somewhat late in the story.
I also wanted to know more about the side characters. What is life like for Julia and Keenie, Liz’s best friends and fellow mean girls? Or Liam, one of the only who sees Liz despite her flaws and imperfections? I felt they were all certainly well-developed, but I wanted to know more about their backstories and how they added to Liz’s story.
Also, the ending was a bit too abrupt for my liking. I am a huge fan of open endings because they can be so thought-provoking and can really be great discussion influences. However, for the open ending in Falling into Place, I felt that there needed to be an additional scene inserted between the ending and the second-to-last scene.
All in all, Falling into Place is a very worthy debut novel, and I have no doubt that readers will enjoy it. A few minor things kept me from really loving it, but it was wonderful all the same.