Falling Into Place

Zoe N. | July 20, 2014 | Review

Falling Into Place

Falling Into Place

by Amy Zhang

Genre: YA Contemporary
Published: September 9, 2014
by Greenwillow

three-half-stars

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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?

Review:

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.

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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.

three-half-stars

69 comments

  1. I didn’t know this author but I confess It’s intriguing. You know you always have the most wonderful covers for your books, it always screams to let me read them lol. Thanks for the discovery!

    1. She’s a wonderful author! It’s amazing because this is her debut and she’s only in high school – it almost makes me feel self-conscious LOL! And thank you! 😀

  2. You had me at Gayle Forman! I love her books. But clearly this book isn’t about her, it’s about Amy Zhang. Another point you made is about lyrical writing and that will get me every damn time. Brilliant review Zoe!!! PS: thank you to introducing me to a new author. 🙂

    1. I’ve only read two Gayle Forman books, and I really like her prose! 😀 Lyrical writing is always such a great selling factor, right? 😉

      Thank you! And my pleasure! 😀

    1. I’m glad you’re intrigued Missie! 😀 The writing in this is truly beautiful. I completely agree though! It was awesome, but there were just a few quibbles here and there that kind of held me back. 🙂 Thank you!

  3. Those physics formula on the cover just made me excited for this even more. Although probably those were just figurative 🙂 This book sounds interesting, in contemporary I really like magical prose and the way you said it, the author wirte in lyrical, so I guess this book is a go! 😀

    Fantastic review, Zoey! 😀

    1. They actually did play a bit of a role in the book if you’re interested in something like that Abby! 😉 I also love my contemporaries to have lyrical prose, and this absolutely fits the bill! 😀

      Thank you Abby! 😀

    1. This was such an anticipated read for me as well Shannon! 😀 I completely agree – it’s always nerve wracking when a book you’re looking forward to starts having reviews roll in!

    1. If you loved those two, I can almost guarantee you’ll love this one as well. And yes! Beautiful writing = my jam. 😉 Thank you Marianne! <3

  4. I SAID THE EXACT SAME THINGS. Particularly with the telling vs. showing and…frankly? Liz was awful. I actually didn’t quite understand WHY she felt so driven to suicide. Sure her life sucked, but she was mean and I wasn’t really onboard with her thought process, you know? I mean, this is awkward…I’m not saying “oh what a wimp”, I’m just saying…she was really very selfish which made me feel squinty. OKAY I DON’T MAKE SENSE. End of comment. Although I really do agree 99% with your review. 😉

    1. #Twinsies 😉

      I completely see where you’re coming from, and you actually make perfect sense! xD I wonder why she chose suicide over simply trying to be a better person, you know?

  5. ”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.”

    Hummm yeah…BIG NO. I couldn’t stand her. And,as you said, she realised she had done wrong way too late and that’s not acceptable for me. 😛 The BIF and IIS combination sure has my attention (though didn’t read BIF) but I don’t feel it. Fantastic honest review though, Zoe. <3

    1. I completely agree Lola. I love protagonists with flaws (I mean no one’s perfect, right?) but sometimes there’s a difference between having a realistically flawed character and a character that’s just plain unlikeable, and this is one of those cases.

      Thanks Lola! <3

    1. It’s awesome, right? 😀

      I completely understand. Sometimes characters just don’t seem like ones we’d be able to connect with, and there’s nothing wrong with that. As for the abrupt endings, sometimes I love them (like in The Giver!) because they make you think + invite a lot of discussion, but this one didn’t really do anything for me. :/

      Thanks Laura! <3

  6. I am so glad to see you enjoyed this one, Zoe! The open ending has me worried though. I am not always a fan of open endings since half the time they are too open for my tastes and that definitely feels like the case here. :/

    I am not so sure as to whether I am even going to read this because.. there is something about reading about mean girls… I always feel like there is no justification for their actions and the people they have hurt and lives they have ruined and.. having to sympathize with them would make things more complicated for my black and white world (which I argue is grey :P).

    Lovely review, Zoe!!! 🙂

    1. Thank you Rashika! 😀

      As for the abrupt ending, I completely understand where you’re coming from! Sometimes I love them (like in The Giver!) because they make you think + invite a lot of discussion, but this one didn’t really do anything for me. :/

      I completely understand. I love protagonists with flaws (I mean no one’s perfect, right?) but sometimes there’s a difference between having a realistically flawed character and a character that’s just plain unlikeable, and this is one of those cases.

      Thank you Rashika! <3

  7. Glad you enjoyed this one, Zoe, and I’ll definitely keep an eye on this author, but I think I’m going to skip this one. I’m all for character development, but when the change of heart comes as late in the game as it sounds like it does here, there’s often too much damage done for me to just roll with the turnaround. I’m too character driven for that. Lovely review though–I’m totally stealing your mean gif 😉

  8. I’d read this one simply because of the author’s writing style. I’m not sure the novel, itself, is for me, but I love when an author’s stories are really lyrical and poetic. I could get onboard for that! Lovely review, Zoe! 🙂

  9. Heh, this cover is so adorable imo 🙂 What? A mash-up of these two novels? Ok, must explore then. The writing sounds like one of Maggie Stiefvater’s novels 🙂 Sorry you felt like it was more being told than shown. At least she shows character growth so whoop for that. I don’t like open endings at all. Only 1 of them comes to mind that I’ve actually been ok with. I’m sorry it wasn’t a perfect novel for you, but glad you enjoyed as a whole, Zoe 🙂

    Siiri @ Little Pieces of Imagination

    1. I agree! Isn’t it? 😀
      And yes! It definitely is like a less dramatic (ha!) version of Stiefvater’s writing.
      I actually like open endings sometimes, but this one just didn’t work for me, you know?
      Thank you Siiri! <3 I'm glad it did too! 🙂

  10. I’m so excited for this one–especially since it’s being compared to Gayle Forman’s If I Stay and that’s some pretty high praise and a tough comparison to nail but from your review it sounds like it managed it!

    1. It is definitely a lot like If I Stay + Before I Fall! 😀 Definitely some touch competition, but this one was pretty darn close to being up there as well! 😀

  11. Lovely review! I’ve never heard of this one, but I loved Forman’s If I Stay & Oliver’s Before I Fall is on my list. Will have to check this one out! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks Tricia! <3 If you liked If I Stay, there’s a very large chance you’ll like this one as well. 😀 Thank you for always leaving such lovely comments!

  12. I also felt rather distanced from the protagonist of this one and the plethora of issues tackled in this made me want to get to know a lot of the secondary characters in closer depth. I think the ideas behind this story were much stronger than the finished product, but I’m still glad to see you enjoyed this. Wonderful, balanced review.

    1. I completely agree. We definitely didn’t get to know as much of the secondary characters as I would have liked either. I think it was definitely a valiant effort and very enjoyable despite its flaws; and it was a very impressive debut all the same. Thank you Keertana!

      (P.S. Excuse me while I hide in my hole of shame because the author is STILL IN HIGH SCHOOL! Goodness!)

  13. Well you had me at lyrical writing. It’s something I truly love and I enjoy reading books with that kind of writing. So this one goes on my to-read list right now. I also enjoyed If I Stay and Before I Fall so this one is perfect for me it seems. Amazing review, Zoe :))

    1. Lyrical writing is always a turn-on, right? xD If you enjoyed both Before I Fall (the protagonist) and If I Stay (the concept), then this is definitely something to watch out for. 🙂 Thank you Tanja!

  14. I just finished this like 30 minutes ago. And I agree with you about everything. I think what I really loved about this one is the writing.. Though the story is not that new (like you said) Zhang’s writing really is captivating.. I feel kind of disappointed about the ending though 😛 I WANT MORE, honestly.

    Lovely review, Zoe! Oh and thanks for visiting Her Book Thoughts! I love discovering new blogs to stalk (and now you’re on my list MWAHAHAHA)

    1. I completely agree Paula! Zhang’s writing is definitely one of the things that sets her apart from other authors – debut or not. And yes! The ending was a bit abrupt, wasn’t it? It felt like it came crashing down on me a bit too fast.

      Thank you! xD Haha!

  15. I am looking forward to reading this book and I’m glad that although there were things you didn’t like, you still liked the book as a whole. I am sucker for wonderful writing and I cannot wait to experience Amy Zhang’s writing firsthand. I also loved If I Stay so that’s a win-win for me. Lovely review, Zoe!

    1. Thank you Sarah! It’s definitely an enjoyable novel despite any flaws it may have. 🙂 If you like lovely writing and are a fan of If I Stay, this is definitely something to try. 🙂 Thank you! <3

  16. Blah, to the stereotypical girls that appear EVERYWHERE in YA. Can they just jump off of cliffs already? I mean, it’s great she realised the error of her ways and all that, but come on, how can you be that awful for that long and only JUST realise how bad you are?

    At least it was a good book in general though, cliches aside!

    1. *sighs* I’m all for protagonists with flaws (I mean, nobody’s perfect, right?), but if they’re just plain old unlikeable, that’s where I get concerned.

      Thank you!

  17. It’s a bummer you couldn’t really connect to the MC or some of the side characters. The overall premise sounds interesting though. I do like books such as these, that focus on realistic issues and life as it really IS instead of fantasy.

    1. Thank you Lauren! It’s definitely an enjoyable novel despite its flaws. The premise is certainly fascinating; so if you enjoy that kind of thing definitely give this a go. 🙂

  18. I haven’t read a book by Zhang, but have heard a lot regarding her compulsive reading writing style. I’m glad she delivered on her writing style, even though you found some problems with it technically.

    I’m intrigued by this one. I haven’t read If I Stay (I know, I need to) but I have read Before I Fall and adored it. Yay for complex and developed characters! They always manage to make me a lot more invested in a story. Liz doesn’t sound that appealing though /: I do get that characters can have flaws and such, but sometimes narrators like that just can be so difficult to read about and still enjoy.

    I have a love/hate relationship with open endings. Sometimes I can find them to be profound and they can leave me wondering in a positive way. Other times I feel cheated and confused, like there’s something I’m missing out on. Sadly, it appears as the open ending in this one was more of the latter.

    Great review as always Zoe! (:

    1. Her writing is definitely beautiful – even if it was a bit too tell-y for my tastes. 🙂

      If you liked Before I Fall (especially the main character), this is definitely something to try. 😀 I completely agree. There’s a difference between a character who is realistically flawed (none of us are perfect, right) and a character who’s just plain annoying.

      I’m the same way! If they’re done well, they can be really wonderful and can make you think (like in The Giver), but if they’re rushed or not done well, they can kind of kill the story a bit (like here).

      Thank you! <3

  19. I absolutely loved If I Stay and Before I Fall is one of my all time favorites! I’m sorry you didn’t connect with Liz, and also that the side characters didn’t get much space up front, but it still sounds like an amazing story. Beautiful review, Zoe (like always). Your reviews inspire me to write mine 🙂 I’ll be looking into this book, thank you so much for sharing!

    1. If you love If I Stay (the concept of it) and Before I Fall (the main character), this is something you’ll most likely love Maddy! 😀

      Thank you! <3

  20. OH. MY. GOSH.

    THIS AUTHOR IS STILL IN HIGH SCHOOL?!

    Whoa, excuse me while I go curl up somewhere and wallow in self-pity because I’m seventeen and I haven’t done anything as accomplished as that. xD But what’s even more impressive is how many good reviews this book has been getting so far. I know of one other book that was written by the author when she was 16 (Take Back the Skies by Lucy Saxon), and even that has been getting mixed to negative reviews.

    Even though unique stories are always a plus, I think it’s also important — maybe even more so — that they evoke feelings from the reader. And hey, I always say that I have a heart of steel, so emotional books are like challenges for me to accept, to see how much they can break my heart, lol. Glad that this one worked out so well for you in that aspect!

    Yay for non-cliche characters as well! You know an author is talented when she’s able to turn what could’ve been an annoying stereotype into something refreshing. I’m already eager to meet these people, even if Lizz was a little hard to relate to. Mean girls are pretty rare though, so I hope it was at least interesting to read about horrible things from her viewpoint? 😛

    I have this book up next to read, and now I can’t wait to get into it! So happy that you enjoyed this, Zoe, despite some problems. Hoping that I’ll like it as much as you did, and as always, awesome review!

    1. I KNOW! Gah! It’s almost depressing, right? Goodness!

      I have a heart of steel too – ha! A book really has to do a lot to make me think or make me feel for it; but this definitely passed the test.

      It’s always great when characters are original and easy to connect to. I haven’t read many books with “mean girls”, so I definitely think it was somewhat interesting to get a look into her mind and how she thinks.

      Thank you Megan! <3

  21. Awesome review, love! I tried reading her other book before, about the… forgot what it was called, but it was about having two people inhabiting one body. I DNFed due to some reasons, but her writing was never one of them, because like you, I found it also enchanting and quite lyrical. I think this is one of those books where you’re not supposed to empathize with the main character (Tease by Amanda Maciel, anyone?) so I’ll try not to get the detachment against it when I read this book!

    1. Thank you Faye! <3

      She has another book out? I had no idea - I could have sworn this was her debut! Hmm! I think this is one where the MC is hard to connect to (like Tease!), but if you try not to get detached, I suppose that will help! 🙂

    1. Thank you Carmel! I’ve been a bit lacking on my debut author readings this year as well, but this one definitely fits the bill. 🙂 Liz was a bit of trouble to connect to, but everything else was pretty solid. 🙂

  22. This one doesn’t sound too bad, but very cliche. The likeness to Before I Fall has me stumped, I just couldn’t get into it. If you can’t emotionally connect and invest in a main character, it kind of defeats the purpose of reading for me. Awesome review Zoe, might push this one to the backburner for now. But it sounds like a decent debut.

    1. It is a bit cliche, but that didn’t really bother me very much. “If you can’t emotionally connect and invest in a main character, it kind of defeats the purpose of reading for me.” I think that was my exact problem with this one. There’s a difference between a character who is realistically flawed (none of us are perfect, right) and a character who’s just plain annoying, you know?

      Thank you Kelly! 😀 It’s definitely a well-done debut despite any minor flaws it has. 🙂

    1. Thank you for the lovely comment Ebony! 😀 This is definitely a wonderful debut despite any minor flaws it may have, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts if you decide to give it a try. 🙂

  23. When you said If I Stay and Before I Fall, I definitely got more interested with Falling Into Place, added to that very intriguing premise! I’m interested in getting to know Liz and why she did what she did, and I HATE bullies and I frankly stay away from bullying in books (even though I know it happens in real life) but I take exception for books like this because I see a positive change with the characters. Like Before I Fall’s end was definitely sad, but I ended up loving the main character in the end because of the positive character development. I’m hoping that this book would do the same. I will definitely put this one on my TBR Zoe! Awesome review <3 I'm very excited to get my hands on this one!

    1. If you liked the main character in Before I Fall, the MC here is definitely quite similar, so I think you’d – in the end – really end up liking her. 🙂 Thank you!

  24. Wonderful review Zoe, I have this one for review and didn’t really know much about it. I’m glad to hear that it covers someone who needs a lot of character development, it kind of sounds like Tease but a bit of an easier read you know?

    1. Thank you Jeann! This is definitely something that delivers in terms of character ‘transformations’, you know? It is quite a bit like Tease – with a bit less of a focus on the slut-shaming and actual bullying and more on the reactions of Liz as a character.

  25. Such a thoughtful and honest review! I’m very excited to read this, I have heard only glowing reviews and yours has me convinced again that I need to check this out when it’s released. Despite some of the telling I think I’ll definitely enjoying this because I love lyrical writing – can you believe Zhang wrote this in high school? I am in awe!
    Thanks for the lovely review Zoe.

    1. Thank you Jaz! That means a lot to me. 🙂 This is definitely an intriguing novel – Amy Zhang covers a lot of ground here, but it’s wonderfully done despite any slight technical errors it might have.

      AND I KNOW! Excuse me while I hide under my pillow buried in a feeling of under-accomplishment! Goodness gracious!

      Thank you for the lovely comment Jaz. 🙂

  26. I have had this for a little while but still haven’t got to it. It sounds so good, and I like the idea of another book similar to If I Stay and Before I Fall, especially since I really loved those.

    But Liz.. WOW, she sounds like a character I am really going to want to throttle for quite a lot of this book. Maybe she can redeem herself enough that she doesn’t treat me completely crazy.

    1. If you really liked If I Stay (the concept) and Before I Fall (the MC), chances are you will probably like this too. 🙂

      She definitely is a character who you might find yourself annoyed at for quite a while. Unfortunately, at least for me, by the time she redeemed herself it was already too late for my liking, but I hope your thoughts are different. 🙂

  27. I totally agree with you! I thought the Liz was kind of hard to connect with and I wished that we got to learn more about the other characters. I thought the ending was too abrupt and I had problems with the epilogue as well. It seemed like it could have still been part of the story, then maybe another epilogue that would tie up the story better could have been written. But I really liked the book nonetheless and I has so impressed that the author’s still in HIGH SCHOOL.

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