05/12/2014

Review: Falling Into Place {Amy Zhang}


Written by Amy Zhang

On the day Liz Emerson tries to die, they reviewed Newton's laws of motion in class. Then she put them into practice by running her Mercedes off the road. With an unexpected narrator at the helm, this non-linear novel pieces together the short and devastating life of Liz Emerson. Mass, acceleration, momentum, force – Liz didn't understand it in physics, and she didn't understand it as her car hurtled toward the tree. How do we impact each other? How do our actions reverberate? What does it mean to love someone? To be a friend, a mother, a daughter?

When you die, who gets to tell your story is important. Everything you've done lives on through the voice of those you leave behind, and Liz's narrator offers unique insight into not only her life, but the lives of everyone Liz touched. The result is a resounding collection of prose that truly manages to touch your heart and make you feel insanely present in the lives of each character.

The writing here resonates on so many levels. It's a deeply poignant approach to the events leading up to, during, and after Liz's crash, which completely immersed me in the experience. The non-linear timeline was a great device to create a fleshed-out story, that didn't leave me confused, but did leave me heart-broken

I'm astounded Amy Zhang wrote this in high school, because her words are a beautiful kind of poetry and the way she crafts her story is uniquely soulful.

Liz is not a very nice person, but herein lies the problem when you try to hate her: Liz knows just how awful she is, and she's horribly lonely because of it. She does terrible things without real reason, but there's something about her that makes her compelling and incredibly sympathetic to read about. 

She feels remorse for everything she does, and yet she keeps doing these things. The fact that Zhang managed to make her such a likeable character, that I prayed desperately would survive, is a real credit to her writing.

Of course, this is not just Liz's story. It's a story of all the lives she has influenced – some for the better, some for the worst – and the people that are changed by her accident. It's a spider-web of cause and effect that spirals into a timeless story with incredibly moving character journeys.

This is a truly fascinating look at how we can influence so many people in so many ways, sometimes being fully aware of it, and sometimes never knowing just how much simply being alive changes the lives of others. This is a haunting d├ębut that emphasises the profound and raw emotion contemporary novels can carry.

"Liz Emerson held so much darkness within her that closing her eyes didn't make much of a difference at all."

 

Allie is a Pimm's-obsessed reader, who dreams of road tripping over America, learning to surf & becoming fluent in all the languages of her heritage (which, sadly, does not include Elvish). If she's not reading or blogging, you can find her catching up on Teen Wolf, or reigning supreme with Scrabble/Mario Kart
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48 comments:

  1. Glad you loved this too! :D It's not for everyone, though, but I loved it. :)

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    1. Yeah, the writing style may deter some, but I thought it was faultless

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  2. I really want to read this book. It's gotten some randomly mixed reviews, but even the negative reviews intrigue me - I think it would be a book I'd really enjoy, especially based on your description of the writing. Great review!!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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    1. Ohh really? I haven't seen many negative ones. All my little blogglings seem to like it, so that was why I figured I'd give it a go. It's wonderful, so I'd recommend you try it out. I'll take the blame if you hate it haha

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  3. This sounds amazing and definitely like something I need to read! Thanks for the wonderful review!

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    1. I hope you pick it up and find it just as beautiful as I did!

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  4. I agree she wasn't the nicest, but her loneliness really struck me

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    1. It's something we can all relate to at some point, I think

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  5. Ahhh Allie i'm so glad you FINALLY READ THIS ONE!
    Falling Into Place was actually beautiful. I remember just loving it so much. I loved the "narrator" (even though I guessed who it was early one) and I loved how we learned so much about the other characters as well. I know the ambiguous ending left several people annoyed and what not but I found it perfect. I felt like the one big thing that needed to be answered was and everything else was now all up for grabs. The characters were now free to make their own decisions.

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    1. I know, I know, I was a liiiiittle late to the party. BUT I GOT THERE IN THE END. Yeah, the narrator was obvious, but I'm assuming it was meant to be. Or maybe we're just super Sherlock detectives, Lily. YES, THAT MUST BE IT!

      I liked the ending. It made me think everything was resolved, I didn't feel like I needed it spelled out for me – would've ruined the magic a bit, IMO

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  6. She wrote this in HIGH SCHOOL?! That's awesome. I really do want to read this. It sounds fantastic, and your review just has me even MORE pumped to get a copy. I love the quote you shared - how beautifully written.

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    1. I KNOW, RIGHT? I'm jealous beyond words

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  7. Absolutely fantastic review, Allie! You hit the nail right on the head re: my feelings for this book. Amy Zhang is an incredibly talented author and I'm looking forward to reading her next novel which is due for publication next year. Loved reading your thoughts on this one!

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    1. I didn't know she had another novel due out next year. Totally Goodreads stalking now!

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  8. My thoughts exactly Allie. This is such a haunting and powerful book, and it is so utterly realistic. Like you said, it was fascinating (and horrifying at the same time) to witness that domino effect of how many people Liz affected - both negatively and positively - and that really reminds us about how we affect people as well. Beautifully written and informative review! ♥

    P.S. Can you believe Zhang is only in high school?!?!

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    1. Oh definitely. The characters can all be pretty awful in their own right, so I liked that it didn't try and put them on pedastools and actually showed us the harsh truths inside every person's mind.

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  9. I agree, Amy Zhang is some kind of genius, she has to be! The writing was amazing. I will definitely be reading her next book! I didn't like Liz, unfortunately, which is unusual for me, because I can get on board with some awful characters. But I couldn't with Liz, I think because she was a person who was just everything I hate in the world. That sounds dramatic, but it's true, and because of that, I just didn't quite care what happened to her, except as it related to her family and friends (who I was significantly more attached to). Even though it wasn't my favorite, it was still good, and the writing was pure magic.

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    1. Ohh, really? I couldn't help but love Liz and hope she got a chance to work things out! I wanted to see her influence people for the positive, because it was obvious she had the power to do that and I needed to see it happen!

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  10. sound like an interesting book ,, happy you liked it :)

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    1. It was definitely a beyond interesting read!

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  11. Wow, this is a loved book by you! I'm still unsure about it all, I've seen so many mixed opinions.. I think for a debut though that the love this gets is great! Wonderful review! :)

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    1. Have you read it yet? I've only seen good things, but maybe I'm being a little blind LOL. Honestly, it's a beautiful book!

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  12. ALLIEE APPROVED YAY! I'm desperately trying to find some time for this one because I listened to a bit of the audiobook a while back and it sounded perfect for me (which is so rare for a contemporary, let me tell you). I loved the lyrical aspect to the writing. It's what I always search for so I definitely have to pick this one up SOOOOON ( I WILL, PROMISE!) Fabulous review, my dear! <33

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    1. READ IT, READ IT! I'd lend you my copy if you weren't so busy being all Australian and living SO FAR AWAY. I think you'll adore it because you're my bookish twin. And if you don't adore it then NO CAKE

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  13. I think I must be the only one left who hasn't read this yet. I don't know what's taking me so long, since I managed to get an ARC of it and all I've been seeing are REALLY positive reviews (which are making me kind of nervous, but let's not think about that)! Anyways, I'm so glad that you loved this, too!

    The biggest issue I have with non-linear stories is what you pointed out -- they usually leave me so confused I just feel like chucking the book across the room and forgetting about it (*cough* books with flashbacks *cough*). It's a huge relief that that wasn't the case here, even if the story seems to have jumped around quite a bit. And I heard that the narrator was "unknown" -- kinda like Death from The Book Thief? How did you find that?

    "Liz knows just how awful she is, and she's horribly lonely because of it." -- This in itself already tells me how emotional this book is going to be. To be honest, I'm really happy that Liz didn't turn out to be those cliched protagonists in contemporary books, who always have this really kind personality that guys fall in love with, even if they aren't in the popular crowd. I want to see more bitterness, more anger, because those are things many, if not most, teenagers feel (I know I feel that way almost all the time). And it's always so impressive when the author is able to make a character with a horrible personality so empathizable.

    This is the second review of Falling Into Place I've read today, and I'm thinking it's about time I got to it. :P Lovely review, Allie!

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    1. Stop delaying and pick that ARC up, Megan. Honestly, this book is gold dust. I wasn't that excited to read it, but once I picked it up I just could not put it down, it was crazy.

      The non-linear thing was actually such a great aspect to the book. I usually hate that sort of thing because I'm just like 'I don't care. Stop confusing me and get to the good stuff!' but the way Zhang intertwined the various stories and various timelines was seamless and I was always aching for more!

      For me, the narrator was a great choice. It wasn't a mystery though, as I thought it was obvious from the beginning who it was, but the perspective allowed for great insight!

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  14. ALLIE YES YES YES I AM SO FREAKING OVER THE MOON TO SEE THAT YOU HAVE THIS 5 STARS AS WELL! *tries to calm down*

    Okay.

    I love love loved this book and I have to agree with everything you said there, this book has stayed with me for so long, and I'm still finding myself rereading my favourite sections (aka the whole novel).

    Fantastic review, girl! <33

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    1. OHHHHH A BOOK TWIN YAY *dances* Melanie, I'm so glad I have someone else who fangirls over this just as much as me! It truly does just echo in the background long after you've read it. I was so shocked by how much it resonated with me!

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  15. I really love how realistic and genuine the character seems even at her worst. Brilliant review!

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    1. Exactly! I just couldn't help but feel for her and want to fix all of her mistakes

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  16. I LIKED THIS ONE A LOT. Ugh, though Liz was awful. But it was the writing. Ohhhh, I'm just in love with the actual way the words fit on the page and like broke hearts and souls. It was incredibly powerful.

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    1. I loved Liz! Well, maybe love is a strong word, but I have very strong feelings of like for her :P SHE WAS JUST SO AWFUL AND SAD AND AHHHH.

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  17. Wow, you reviewed this incredibly beautifully Allie! The writing was definitely really amazing in this novel and making us stick with an unlikable protagonist is a sign of great writing.

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    1. Oh, thank you!! Yeah, the writing was so gorgeous, it inspired me to be a little poetic in the review :)

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  18. I really loved this book! And it was surprising to me that I still was emotional in the end even though I didn't like Liz as much! The writing style is definitely different though!

    Great review!

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    1. Everyone seems to hate Liz LOL. I think I'm the only one that loved/hated her

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  19. Now I feel really bad I left this one (read 20%) after reading one that made me cry, so couldn't deal with it. Loved the way it was written though. But aha! See, I can like a character whose awful if they know and admit they are, and if you can connect to them, got to give the author credit. Heard a lot about the narrator, (and I id read a spoiler, so know "who" that is) very different. Glad you loved it! :)

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    1. Ohhh, you must pick it back up. Crying is a good thing (in books, anyway LOL).

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  20. I have to totally agree with you on this. I just finished this yesterday and it was beautiful - I can't get over Amy Zhang's writing! Also, I really like your reviewing style, I don't think I've read one of your reviews before now but I really like it!

    Ely @ A Book So Fathomless

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    1. I'm so excited for her next book, it's going to be so gloriously written :)

      Oh and thank you! That's so sweet <3

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  21. This is such a beautiful review of what sounds like a beautiful book. I loved what you said about Liz's characterization - characters who you like despite all their wrongs are the best kind of characters, and I agree that it takes a lot of talent to create one. When you combine that with a non-linear storyline and an exploration of how we affect other people's lives, you get an absolutely brilliant-sounding premise. I really need to read this book ASAP!

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    1. It truly is a touching and completely mesmerising book. Amy Zhang has insane talent to be able to write something this poignant

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  22. I'm glad you loved this one so much. I really did enjoy this, but wasn't completely satisfied with the ending for some reason. It was also really hard at times to sympathise with Liz. But it was wonderfully written and I can't wait to see what Zhang does next.

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    1. Ah, see I liked the ending. It was open but it also hinted at a lot of answers and I think the obscureness suited the tone of the book :)

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  23. You're exactly right! I don't know why I never figured it out but I totally get why I thought Liz was a good character even though she was a bad person. It was because she knew that everything she was doing was hurting people. Even though it doesn't excuse her actions, it allows for empathy. I really loved this one as well. Lovely review Allie!

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    1. Exactly! She was so compelling, even though she was entirely frustrating. It's a credit to Zhang to be able to craft such a character

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  24. Wow I didn't know that Amy wrote this in High School! That is amazing... I loved the nonlinear timeline and just the writing in general but I really struggled overall because I didn't like Liz. I know she knew she was horrible, but some of her behavior was inexcusable to me. :(

    Nicole @ The Quiet Concert

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  25. Wow your review of this book is amazing. Sometimes I wish my thoughts could come out so beautifully when I sit down to write reviews. :)

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