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?
Falling Into Place has got to be one of the most outstanding YA debut novels I’ve read this year. Three reasons why you really ought to read this book: The writing is stunning, the characters are realistically complex and the story is earnest, courageous and also important.
“Gravity is our playmate, momentum is our friend. We are blurs of motion. We are racing, and we are both winning, because we do not race each other. We race the world, and as fast as it rotates, as fast as it revolves, we are faster.”
The most popular girl in her high school, Liz Emerson chooses to be an object in motion that would stay in motion despite flattening everything in her path. Sad, broken and destructive, Liz applies Newton’s Laws by crashing her car, with every intention to say goodbye to her miserable life. Falling Into Place is a deep exploration of the inertia, force, mass, gravity, velocity, acceleration and ultimately the cause and effect of Liz’s existence.
“Death, unfortunately, is not in the business of lending wings.”
Seriously, Amy Zhang is a stellar writer. I can’t even begin to express how much I fell in love with her prose. The way she crafted Falling Into Place with this lovely mess of jumbled moments detailing Liz’s life and all its in-betweens, and how she added snapshots- gorgeous. The way she incorporates these physics theories into her story and uses them as metaphors- sublime. Also, the use of a mysterious narrator worked incredibly well for me. What stood out the most though is the essence of the writing and its unflinching and honest depiction of its characters.
“She fell. She thought, Hello, gravity, and tried to spread her arms so that it would catch her. Hello, good-bye. But the world did not fade completely.”
While Falling Into Place is centered on Liz Emerson, it does not fail to take notice of the people in Liz’s life and in fact allows them to be a channel to fully understanding Liz and her brokenness. There’s Monica, Liz’s mom, Julia and Kennie, her best friends, and Liam, a boy from their high school. We get to read their perspectives, discern their connection and relationship with Liz (and how that had pushed her even further into darkness) but we also see these characters for who they are, what their own story is. Everyone has their broken parts and everyone is more than a little messed-up and my heart just couldn’t help but hurt for each and everyone of them.
“Liz Emerson held so much darkness within her that closing her eyes didn’t make much of a difference at all.”
My heart broke the most for Liz though. She’s the kind of character some readers might hate or might feel disconnected to because she sure has her share of irreparable stupid mistakes. That said, I truthfully was able to sympathize with her despite never being in her shoes. The way the author puts Liz’s emotions and thoughts into words- they felt familiar even when they weren’t, you know? I’m probably sounding cryptic here but I don’t know how else to describe the way Liz and her story affected me. I was so surprised to find tears in my eyes when I closed the book.
Well, hello, darling with the ocean eyes,
How many secrets keep us apart?
A sea of poems, a field of sighs,
Can I cross and return to the start?
Falling Into Place is a really powerful novel if you let it take you deeper into Liz’s haunting and devastating life. It opens your eyes to harsh cruelties, hopelessness and depression, and the fact that even the unbreakable can break. While it maybe painful and heartbreaking, Falling Into Place is a beautifully poignant novel in its totality. I can’t recommend it enough.