Title: Falling into Place
Author: Amy Zhang
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Hardcover, 304 Pages
Published September 2014
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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?First of all, this book wasted no time getting into the gripping stuff. The story opens up with Liz's suicide-masked-as-an-accident. From the get-go, my eyes were wide open and I was drawn in. The second thing that makes this book so peculiar (in a good way) is the point of view. (There's a mild spoiler up ahead. Nothing major. If you don't want to know who the narrator is, feel free to skip the rest of this paragraph and move on down to the next one.) The story is told from the point of view of Liz's childhood imaginary friend. It isn't officially confirmed until the end, but it's pretty obvious throughout the novel. This imaginary friend doesn't have a name or a gender (but some would assume it's a girl), but he/she is Liz's imaginary friend nonetheless. The way he/she describes it, Liz grew up and forgot about her, but she followed Liz throughout her whole life and was beside her the entire time.
The narration in general is kind of weird, which is probably what kept me from giving this book five stars. I was a bit too confused at time. One chapter would describe something that happened years ago. Then the next would be a scene five minutes before the accident. Then the next is a hospital scene hours later. Then the next is five days before the accident even occurred. It wasn't too difficult to follow, but I definitely recommend paying attention, or you'll be hopelessly lost.
So, as for the story itself. Liz Emerson is the definition of a high school wild child. She can't be pinned down, told what to do, or bossed around by anybody. She moved to Meridian in fifth grade and immediately earned herself the top spot. Just for being herself. So, naturally, nobody would be able to fathom the fact that Liz Emerson just tried to kill herself. It's irrational. It can't happen to a girl like her. Because if Liz Emerson can't fight through her problems, who can?
So, Liz makes her attempted suicide appear as an accident. She swerves off the road at an icy spot she'd practiced on many times before. People would just assume she slipped and crashed and died. Right? What a tragedy.
Because Liz isn't a physics whiz. And her calculations were wrong.
This was such a great book, in my opinion. I stayed up late into the night reading chapter after chapter because I just wanted to know what was going to happen next. I couldn't help myself. I just had to know. I finished this book in less than 24 hours. That's how great it was. I wasn't able to put it down and do anything productive. I just wanted to read.
Amy Zhang's characters themselves were great. Each student had a different story, and you got to take a turn in each of their heads. Several times. Including Liz's. It was interesting to see from one perspective how everyone thought of Liz, and from another, how she thought of herself. They were drastically different.
And I just had to put this out there - being an AP Physics student myself, a part of me inwardly cringed every time something physics-y was mentioned. That class is seriously the bane of my existence.
Overall, Falling into Place was a really good stand-alone novel. The narration, the point of view, and the overall story itself was gripping, and I couldn't put it down. Amy Zhang has an excellent writing style and I'm definitely looking forward to reading more of her work in the future.