Falling into Place by Amy Zhang

falling into place by amy zhang Falling into Place by Amy ZhangBuy Falling Into Place
Special price $9.06 Regular price: $9.98
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Format: Paperback
Reviewer: Melissa on January 29, 2015
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

On the day that Liz Emerson attempts to kill herself, they had reviewed Newton’s laws of motion in physics. Then, after school, she put them into practice by running her Mercedes off the road. While reading Amy Zhang’s debut novel, Falling into Place, there is one, overwhelming question that the novels characters and the reader will find them asking: “Why?” Why did Liz think that the world would be better off with out her? Why did she give up? Vividly told by an unusual narrator, this 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 these concepts in physics, and she still doesn’t understand it even as her car hurtled toward the tree. What questions will we be forced to ask? What situations will unfold? What voices will we get to experience, and what will they reveal to us? Fans of Lauren Oliver, Gayle Forman, and Jay Asher will want to check out this novel.

As anyone who knows my reading tastes well, I’m a big fan of the writing of both Lauren Oliver and Gayle Forman and read every book with the theme of suicide that comes my way, so it was kind of a no brainer that I’d read it when I first heard about it at Frenzy Presents last summer. Add in Tiff from MostlyYALit’s recommendation, and I knew that I had to read it as soon as the opportunity presented itself. Overall, I’m really glad that I took the time to read Falling into Place. It’s told in an interesting way from a variety of perspectives, including characters as diverse as Liz, the veritable queen bee, and Liam, the least popular student in their school.

If you read YA novels often, then you know that most of them are written from a first person perspective. Technically, this book is, too, but it’s not from Liz’s perspective, which is exceedingly rare in young adult fiction, especially in contemporary novels like this one. (The main narrator is supposed to be rather surprising, but honestly, it wasn’t much of a twist. I guessed who was recounting this story in the first person fairly early in the story.) And since it’s told from different perspectives, it means that the majority of the chapters are written in the third person. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve read a lot of books in the third person over the years, and I think that they can be very compelling, but I couldn’t give this book a five-star review because of this authorial decision. It is a very intriguing book, and the unusual narrative perspective makes Zhang’s story original. However, personally, I found the third person perspective distanced me, to some degree, from what could otherwise be a very emotive story. Put another way, I wanted to cry, but no matter how heartbreaking this story is, there was no chance that it was going to happen.

What I did love, however, is how literary Falling Into Place is and how much it made me think. From the perspective of narrative form, Zhang made the perfect decision. To tell Liz’s story, the story of a depressed teen, Zhang told it in a fragmented, nonlinear way, perfectly paralleling the experience of narrating trauma. The writing is beautiful, particularly because Zhang wrote it as a high school student. However, more than anything, I loved how she used physics as a metaphor for the way we interact with and impact one another, for the cause and effect of life or the possibility that life is more than cause and effect. It also asks readers to consider what it means to be a friend, a daughter, a mother, and to love someone. These are the kinds of questions that force us to ask what it means to connect with others, some of the essential things that make us human.

With questions that tackle what makes us human in a way that is wise beyond Zhang’s years, it’s no wonder that I recommend Falling into Place to those who love contemporary YA.

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