Book Review: Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang

Falling Into Place - Amy Zhang

A popular high school junior Liz Emerson from Meridian High school has decided to commit suicide. She has decided that the world would be a better place without her. That the lives of those around her would get better if she stops to exist. Falling into Place delves right into WHY Liz Emerson thinks that she should die. And what happens when her attempt fails. 

The narration of this book is something I haven't seen before. I don't want to spoil the narrator for you, but all I'll say is that it's definitely something I did not expect. The story gives you little hints about it and I did figure it out myself pretty quickly, but despite that, I really enjoyed Zhang's twist to the narration. Zhang has bravely decided to use nonlinear narration in her debut, which luckily works well and gives the novel a puzzle like element - you have to keep reading to fill the gaps, to get more information, to understand why Liz has decided to end her life.

Though Liz is the main character of Falling into Place, she isn't the only character the novel focuses on. Through flashbacks, the novel highlights Liz's relationships with people around her - her friends, her mother, the boy who has liked her since 5th grade, the people she used to bully. Through these flashbacks, we get to see Liz through the eyes of other people - we see that to some she is special and loved; to some she is a threat.

Though the flashbacks show Liz as a bully and bit of a bitch, I felt for her. The regret inside her is so intense and she knows that she needs her, but she does not know how to ask for it. Zhang does not glorify her, does not glorify bullying, but shows the intense truth of it, proving that those who bully are usually a lot more troubled than those who are bullied. Liz feels bad for what she has done, but she does not know what to do - it seems like no one notices or cares that she is feeling bad, and eventually thinks the only way for her to stop tormenting others and also herself is to end her life.

Falling into Place is one of those books that I had to read through on one sitting. The story pulled me in from page one and the nonlinear, puzzle like narration made me want to keep turning the pages. The pacing is brilliant, with short and long chapters mixed together in perfect combination. Falling into Place holds its grip throughout and I wasn't able to put it down until I reached the last page. And when I did, I wanted to go back to the beginning and read it again.

I immensely enjoyed Amy Zhang's debut. Her writing is poetic, flowing and fast paced. Her characters are interesting and extremely multi-layered- just when you think you know all about these characters, a new flashback takes you back in time and shows a completely different side to them. Zhang's approach to high school drama and bullying is honest and raw, which shows Zhang really knows what she is writing about. In a post on her blog she says that Falling into Place is everything she wanted to say during high school but didn't and while reading the novel, I went back to my own high school memories and started to wish I would have said a couple of strong words for several different people. If you have been in high school, I promise you that you can identify with at least one of these characters. I went to a very small high school and still found some familiar characters from Falling into Place. I have a feeling Amy Zhang will hit it big time with this one.