Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Review: Falling into Place by Amy Zhang

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I received this book for free from HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Falling into Place by Amy ZhangFalling into Place by Amy Zhang
Published by Greenwillow Books on September 9th 2014
Genres: Contemporary, YA
Source: HarperCollins
Buy on Amazon

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.

I was so torn on rating this one. While I truly enjoyed the writing and the depth of the story itself is incredible, I really did not like the main character. I realize she is a character we’re not supposed to like, per se. She’s not likeable, period. But contrary to many books I’ve read with unlikeable characters (Courtney Summers’ Some Girls Are come to mind), I never got to the point where I “got” her despite it all. She never learned, she never wanted to change, it was like she figured she was going to kill herself anyways so why bother being a better person.

So this was my only issue, but it was a big one. I could not get myself to be sad about a bully who’s depressed because she’s terrible, yet she KEEPS DOING terrible things!! She did not have redeemable qualities. I can feel sympathy for someone who makes mistakes that comes with emotional consequences from which they learn, but she was really like someone who cries after poking themselves in the eye, and yet KEEP POKING. Over and over. So, yes, her story is undoubtedly sad, but I felt like she didn’t deserve my sympathy. Maybe I’m just cold, maybe I just have an unbendable intolerance towards bullies, but it is what it is. I’m not saying she deserves to die, I’m not evil, just that I couldn’t bring myself to be sad about this inner turmoil she was fighting. This definitely affected how emotionally invested I was in her story. Mostly I was curious about what brought her to this situation, and if she would survive or not, which is what kept me captivated. Kind of like a train wreck you can’t help but stare at, you know.

With that said, the story is one that makes you feel as if you’re just about to topple. You don’t know which side, yet, but something is bound to happen at any moment. This is mostly due to the way in which it’s told, using a back and forth timeline that brings us closer and closer to its peak moment. The moment she tries to kill herself. From these flashbacks, you get to know the characters around her – her friends, her schoolmates, her family life/absentee mother – and see the social power she had over people. You see how people deal with grief, with impending loss and uncertainty. It was a powerfully emotional novel in that sense. I came to care a the most about Liam who, in my opinion, deserves so much more than a person like Liz. But I do like that he was willing to see through her bully armour and glimpse at the person she could be.

My first instinct was a 4-star, so that’s what I gave it; it really IS a great book with a lot to offer, but the main character sure made it hard to completely love it. Also, no matter how mean a person is, depression is still a very real and very frightening illness, and I applaud this book for this raw, honest look at such a serious topic.


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Canadian blogger, wife, mother, coffee lover, and sarcastic at heart! She has had a love for all things bookish since before Amazon and eReaders existed *le gasp*. You can also find her organizing tours and other fun things at Xpresso Book Tours.

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13 Responses to “Review: Falling into Place by Amy Zhang”

  1. JennRenee

    I have been so curious about this one. I find it hard to read real issues that are dark and deep because if they aren’t done right the book isn’t good. There have been some amazing ones out there and so I had some high hopes for this one. Even though the main character (so get you mean about feeling sad for a bully who has no remorse.) is horrible, I think I should give this book a go. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. Nick @ Nick's Book Blog

    I have heard about this main character being difficult to like. Honestly, I struggle with books when I don’t like the characters so I really don’t think I would be able to enjoy this one.
    I’m glad you liked it even with the mean girl MC.
    Great review!

  3. Kelsey

    I haven’t been really interested in reading this, I have a feeling that the way the character acts would ruin some of it for me and the bullying I definitely won’t like. I’m glad you liked the overall story though!

  4. Juhina

    initially I also didn’t sympathize with her and was actually horrified at everything she’s done. Even by the end, I still didn’t feel overly sorry for her because everything she’s done, she consciously knew would hurt people but kept on doing it. I think I teared up more with her friends’ issues.. those broke my heart. As well as the guy when he visited her. Still, I like that she didn’t redeem herself in the end because that’s how life is.. you don’t always get to repent and start fresh and be a totally changed person.. the book told it like it is. Great review Giselle!

    – Juhina @ Maji Bookshelf

  5. Michelle @ Book Briefs

    oh man, I know what you mean about the main character issues. That is a huge holdup for me too. And I think the thing that would get me the most is that she doesnt seem to want to change. That would be hard for me to get past.

    Although I do have to say that I am intrigued about the writing in the book since you still rated it highly.

    Great review Giselle!

  6. Kristi-The Book Faery

    I see the struggle. I’m very character oriented, in fact, sometimes the story itself can be a tad sucky but if I really like the characters, I can let that slide a bit 😉
    Aside from that, it sounds like it has some good secondary characters and a great premise. I may try this one!
    Great insightful review, Giselle!

  7. Nereyda @Mostly YA Book Obsessed

    I liked this one too even though I didn’t like the trio of girls. I did like Liam though and I liked the writing and the way it was written. And I wasn’t expecting the narrator to be who it was.
    If I was supposed to feel sorry or like the MC, then I probably wouldn’t have liked this. (I don’t think I was supposed to like her anyway).

  8. Jasprit

    I have had this book for the longest time, but just not had the chance to get around reading it, but your review does make me eager to want to give it a go soon. I do love my books that jump all over the timeline, slowly leading you up to the present day, but I’m not sure how I’ll feel about the main character :/ thanks for another gorgeous review Giselle! 🙂

  9. Mishma @ As the page turns

    I’ve been wanting to read this book from the first day I saw it on Goodreads.I am a huge fan of realistic fiction, so I was looking forward to read this one.
    I hate it when I can’t connect to the main characters.Normally when I have an instant connection with the main character, I feel like I am part of the story myself.But when I don’t, it shows me the reality that I am an outsider who’s reading the story.It ruins the whole reading experience.

  10. Alreem

    hey this book sound like my type of book, every so often i love reading a book where the main character is not so innocent, i guess i will add it to my TBR list, awesome review 😀

  11. Olivia

    This is another book that has been on my TBR as of recently. It’s a shame that you didn’t like the main character and that it stopped you from enjoying the book as much as you could’ve 🙁 Although the plot does sound like something intriguing!