Amy Zhang’s first novel, Falling into Place deals with a lot of big issues – suicide, drub abuse, teen pregnancy, and bullying just to name a few. It could have easily become something of a finger wagging warning for teens, but Zhang doesn’t use these issues in that way, she uses them to reveal how interconnected everyone and everything is. Every word we say, everything we do affects someone else, and Falling into Place shows just how deep those connections are.
Liz Emerson is the most popular girl in school, for all the wrong reasons. She manipulates and bullies everyone around her in order to stay at the top, and is willing to cut down anyone who stands in her way. She sounds like an all-round horrible person, and is on the surface a very unlikable character. But Zhang has done the impossible with Liz, and created a character who readers can sympathise with, even as she does each terrible act. It is a remarkable feat, but Zhang gives an insight into Liz’s thoughts that reveal how truly sad and lonely she is.
The book starts with the aftermath of the car crash that was Liz’s attempt to take her life, and follows with flashbacks to before the crash, and flashforwards to her time in hospital as doctors try to save her life. The book is narrated by an unknown first person who speaks of knowing Liz when she was younger. The narration is eerily omniscient in places, and dives into the thoughts and feelings of different characters at different times. It is a unique way to tell the story, but it works because it allows the reader to stay connected to Liz through the narrator in a way that third person could not, but also allows us to understand things from different points of view.
Falling into Place isn’t the most uplifting book in the world, given the character and the issues she faces, but it isn’t grab your tissues sad either. It is a study of life, and what it means to be good, or bad, and all the shades in between. It is guaranteed to make you think, and will stay with you long after you’ve closed the cover.