I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Published by Greenwillow Books on September 9, 2014
Source: the publisher
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.
Warning: This review could be a Trigger for bullying, depression, suicidal thoughts, suicide, etc. Please read with caution.
Falling into Place was my #1 “I’ll cry if I leave here without it” book that I snagged from BEA. It was heartbreaking, shocking and beautiful. It’s the kind of book that everyone who has ever bullied or who has ever been bullied needs to read. There was so much depth and emotion to this book. It broke my feels and made my heart ache.
Fair warning, guys: I was so busy reading and copying down favorite quotes that I was bad with taking regular review notes. Also, this book kinda sorta totally broke me. So… I’m sorry if this review is vague or odd. I’m trying my best to remember certain details and it’s hard to find the right words for a book like this.
It was evident almost immediately that Liz was a complex character. Yes, she was a bully. She was horrible to people. But deep down, she was just as broken as the people she bullied. She’s pretty and popular to those who don’t know her, who only see her smile at school. She’s the stereotypical rich girl, partying, drinking and driving – she’s careless and thinks that consequences don’t exist for her actions. But inside, she’s lonely, insecure and hurting. It doesn’t excuse her behavior, but it gives us a look into the mind of a bully. Like everything in life, there’s always two sides to a story.
Kennie is convinced that popularity has a lot to do with confidence and in her mind, Liz is all confidence. Kennie is insecure for her own reasons, broken from past mistakes. It was hard for me to connect with Kennie and she wasn’t one of my favorite characters. I wish there had been a bit more character development and depth to her. Julia, on the other hand, was an intriguing character. She was the girl who should have been on top of the world, who should have done well. But peer pressure brought her down and she blamed Liz for it, yet (deep down) still loved her friend, which is true loyalty. There’s a scene near the end with Julia and Jake that had me laughing my ass off. It definitely made Julia one of my favorite characters.
Liam was a character that I really wanted to know more about. We know he was bullied by Liz and her friends for stupid reasons – I mean, really, is there ever a non-stupid reason to bully someone? But you know what I mean – and we know he still… I don’t know if “loved” is the right word, but he admired Liz. He was the nice guy who helped the popular girl (several times, actually), even though she ruined his life. He still looked up to her, still admired her, still had a bit of a crush on her. He forgave her.
Falling into Place did a great job of showing that, in tragedy, everyone wants to be in the spotlight, everyone claims to be your friend, everyone acts sad even if they didn’t know you very well. The people at school used Liz’s accident as a reason to get out of classwork and homework and some even skipped school to be at the hospital. I was pretty disgusted by this, but I know it really does happen; I’ve seen it. I’ve lived it.
Falling into Place also did a great job showing that a bully is a person, too. Bullies usually have low self-esteem, come from broken homes or have been bullied themselves. All the above basically describes Liz. I’m not saying it makes what bullies do okay. It’s never okay to bully. But it’s a reminder that we all have our own stories. We all have things going on in our lives that make our lives difficult and crappy. For some people, making others feel insecure and sad makes them feel better about themselves. I don’t know why and I don’t think any of us will ever understand it. But this book really opened my eyes to it. Liz was so broken by the things that had happened in her own life and by the things she had done to others, that she felt it wasn’t worth living anymore. She was sorry for the things she had done, but she didn’t know how to apologize or how to ask for help. She felt she had no other way out.
The ending of the book was… I don’t even know if I can say without being spoilery. But it was crazy and emotional and intriguing and all these things that, again, I can’t say because I don’t want to spoil it. But you’ll definitely need tissues and chocolate by the time you’re done. Also, I figured out who the “narrator” was pretty early on. I loved who it was. It really makes you think…
Overall, I highly recommend this book. It was emotional, heartbreaking, enlightening and – I believe – a truly important book in the anti-bullying genre. It’s the kind of book that NEEDS to be read and understood. Amy Zhang is a brilliant, intelligent writer. She clearly knows a lot about teenagers and human nature and her story felt incredibly real and authentic. I look forward to seeing what else she does in the future.
Here are some of the powerful, heartbreaking quotes (Trigger Warning for some of them) from Falling into Place (Please Note: These quotes came from the ARC. They might be slightly different in the final copy of the book and may be on slightly different pages):
“…[Liz] wanted to be happy . She wanted to be bright and laughing and thin.” — Page 17 (ARC)
“On the inside, she shakes to pieces.” — Page 30 (ARC)
“She tried to think of a reason to go on. She couldn’t. But she could think of a thousand reasons to give up.” — Page 53 (ARC)
“She was different, different was weird, weird was bad. It was simple.” — Page 88 (ARC)
“Out of the seven billion people sharing the planet with her, not one of them knew what was going through her head. Not one of them knew she was lost. Not one of them asked.” — Page 108 (ARC)
“She wanted to go back. She wanted to be a little girl again, the one who thought getting high meant being pushed on the swings and pain was falling off her bike.” — Page 257 (ARC)
If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal, please speak up. Speak to an adult you trust.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website
Stop Bullying website
NOH8 Campaign website
Heather Brewer, a young adult author and a big advocate of mental health and bullying prevention, has a special message for you, too. Check it out here.