Falling into Place
by Amy Zhang
Expected Publication Date: September 26, 2014
Length:304 pages pages
Obtained Via: I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my final opinion.
View at the Traffic light:
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.
Falling into Place is a very ambitious book, and I’m not sure it lives up to that ambition. It tries very hard to be deep and in the vein of books such as If I Stay, but rushes through issues so quickly that nothing gets time to settle or to germinate in the brain. It’s a book that wants to make me think, but doesn’t actually give me the push to do so–instead, it just leads the reader to the edge.
Which is not to say that Falling into Place is without merit. The writing is stark in a very beautiful way, and the pacing was spot on. Even when I wasn’t really buying into Falling into Place, I could not put it down. Zhang pulls the technical aspects of the book off in an admirable way, and I’ll definitely be on the lookout for her next book.
The characters start out as stereotypes: the once good-girl who had a downward spiral, the gaggle of mean girls, the quiet, kind guy who’s in love with the mean girl leader for reasons–but eventually, they deepen as their lives intersect with Liz’s. The narration of Falling into Place skips around in the timeline, so the reader sees Liz right before the car crash as well as months leading up to it. As she interacts with her classmates, they become more fleshed out too. Their initial characters might be steeped in stereotypes, but I began to care for them after awhile.
That being said, Falling into Place makes the effects we have on people too easy. The point seems to be that our actions have consequences–which is an important part of the book and done well–but everything is too clear-cut cause-and-effect. Real people are more complicated and complex than that. At one point, Liz sits in an pep rally and looks around and decides she’s responsible for so many wrecked lives. While Liz was awful to people at times, it’s much too simple to say that character X is not going to college directly because of Liz. If it was only one character it would be easy to let it go, but it happens to most of the major characters in the book. It’s all X causing Y, without R, S, B, D factored into the equation.
Falling into Place is narrated by an unseen narrator who can see all and is a big surprise for most of the novel. In some ways, it reminded me of Death in The Book Thief–a narrator partially removed from the situation, able to give insight, and has more wisdom than those currently waiting to see if Liz will recover from her crash or not. Unfortunately, the narration didn’t really work for me once it was revealed. It felt like an easy way to be able to gain some distance from the events without actually being necessary.
Despite the faults I found in Falling into Place, I did like the book. It felt a bit rushed, which didn’t give my emotions time to really be explored or settled, but the story itself was engaging. It’s a bit different and interesting, and I think Zhang’s future books really have the potential to be fantastic. This one, however, felt pretty forgettable in the end.
Falling into Place was a quick read with great writing and a promising premise, but the execution left a little to be desired. My main disappointment was with the rushed events which left me feeling unaffected emotionally considering the emotionally fraught situation of the plot. 3/5 cupcakes.