Falling into Place by Amy Zhang Review: The science of a suicide attempt

October 6, 2014 by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence | 3 stars, Books, Reviews

Falling into Place by Amy Zhang Review: The science of a suicide attemptFalling into Place by Amy Zhang
Published by HarperCollins Australia on September 9, 2014
Source: Edelweiss, Publisher
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Amazon | Book Depository
Add to Goodreads

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.

Falling into Place is like the readable version of Tease. I couldn’t get through Tease, purely because it was from the perspective of a bully who drove someone to suicide. In this book, we get different perspectives both from the bully herself, her friends, her boyfriend and guy who is crushing on her. While there were many cliches, what made this book stand out was the beautiful prose and the non-linear timeline.

Liz Emerson got drunk too easily, and on just about anything: alcohol, power, expectations. She was never careful with her life or anyone else’s, and in her disregard was a coldness, a deep cruelty, a willingness to destroy anyone, everyone. 

Liz Emerson is a popular, beautiful and damaged girl who has had a neglected childhood; with a mum who is more indulgent in herself and a father who died when she was young. She hides her pain away in her teenage years by bullying others and making them feel terrible about themselves. She’s an unlikable protagonist who does horrible things to people at her school, but in her times of alcoholism, taking drugs, bulimia and depression, you know there is something terribly wrong with her.I liked reading the story from someone who is the villain, and although she was hard to connect to, you ended up sympathising with her.

The mystery of why Liz Emerson crashed her car and what drove her into suicide is told through varying chapters. It switches between different time periods before the crash with what drove Liz to attempt suicide, to snapshots of Liz’s childhood, and different characters’ perspectives, and varying the past and the present. I found this to be engaging and experiential, although towards the end I got a bit frustrated about why we were alternating minutes before the crash. The story is told from an unidentified narrator, which isn’t revealed until the end.

Eventually, she could no longer find comfort in anything. By the end, she was just another girl stuffed full of forgotten dreams, until she crashed her car and she wasn’t even that. 

Falling into Place offers a holistic view of such a tragedy occuring, with Liz’s school, classmates, teachers, parents, students and her friends reacting in a different way. Some will hope she pulls through okay, and others will already write her off. I found this portrayal to be realistic, especially because Liz was a terrible person and people who never really cared about her would pretend that it was the worst thing ever to have happened.

What I didn’t like about the story was the mean, unlikable characters within the story. The book is filled with them, and the popular kids being the least likable ones was cliche. Her friends were pretty self obsessed and each pre-occupied with their own problems, and the only redeeming character was the guy who had been bullied by Liz called Liam, who had a change of heart. He ended being slightly creepy and stalkerish with his unrequited love though.

Throughout the book, the author also relates what is happening to Liz back to physics, and to be honest this fell short of delivery. Most of the references went over my head (fair enough, I never studied physics) but removing these references would have made zero impact to the story as a whole.


Falling into Place is a beautiful, lyrical exploration into darker teenage issues such as bullying, depression, drug and alcoholism and bulimia. It is an emotional read filled with characters you won’t like, but you will somehow manage to fell sorry for. The mystery, creativity and non-linear aspect of the book will keep you reading – but outside of the beautiful writing, this book explored enough cliches to not be memorable.

Rating: 4 out of 5

I received a review copy from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. 


The following two tabs change content below.
Jeann is an Aussie YA blogger and mum who loves to read and recommend books! You can usually find me fangirling about books on my various social media channels including Twitter @happyindulgence, Instagram and Youtube.

Tags: , , , ,

42 responses to “Falling into Place by Amy Zhang Review: The science of a suicide attempt

  1. I definitely agree with you on this one! Majority of the book was really amazing. I didn't like the characters either but for me, I thought that they were still good characters. I could understand them in one way or another and they seemed realistic enough. But then again, it was really cliche which sucked! I'm excited to see what Amy Zhang comes out with in the future though. 😀
    Laura Plus Books recently posted…The Bookshelf TagMy Profile

  2. Brilliant review. I really loved this book and the way it was written, but enjoyed it less the further I got into it. I liked Liz as a character because she was very complex and I enjoyed seeing all the different sides to her. She could be such a nasty person at times but then the next moment she would have me feeling sorry for her. I hated the ending because it just left me wanting so much more!

  3. Oooh it sounds like this would be totally up your alley then Alicia! Especially with the lyrical prose and the unlikable character which was interesting. I hope you enjoy it!

  4. Oh I know, Liz was completely despicable and even though she wasn't raised in an ideal parenting world, it still felt like her actions weren't exactly justified. Everyone is different I guess. I read the first 20 pages of Tease and I was like nah, not doing this. I have no regrets XD

  5. I do enjoy sciencey stuff when I can actually understand what it means, but physics? Oooh boy, I'd be struggling there. At least it wasn't maths, cos I'd be running a mile. Luckily it was only a few references here and there. If you like the lyrical prose and the sound of the main character, I think you'd really enjoy this Jess. Thanks for visiting!

  6. It was quite similar to The Truth About Alice, except with deeper character development, more pov from the actual bully herself, and lyrical writing. Also it tells the point of view from the bully instead of the victim which was really interesting. It just shows a different perspective really. Thank you Kelly! I didn't bother with Google this time XD

  7. I think the varied perspectives and characters are great, even if they are unlikable at times, at least they were intentionally that way and there's a story to tell. Thank you Pili!

  8. Yes, I think you'd definitely enjoy it Michelle! There were so many great contemporaries this year, I feel like it is the year of YA contemporaries! If you like the darker issues and lovely writing, I think you'd enjoy this one hun.

  9. Yeah, I can see what she was trying to do with them but it kind of fell flat for me lol. It was a really enjoyable book actually, too bad the narrator wasn't someone who was likable! I feel like she didn't really redeem herself that much, so I can totally relate to your thoughts Kara. Thank you!

  10. I'm a sucker for authors who utilize a lyrical writing style; it's difficult to pull off, but immensely enthralling when done well, so I look forward to discovering Amy Zhang's approach for myself. Falling Into Place tackles many sensitive issues that are close to my heart, and I'll be interested in seeing how the story links to physics.
    Carmel @ Rabid Reads recently posted…Paranormal New Releases: October 7thMy Profile

  11. Yup. The physics references went right over my head, too! But yeah, like you said, you didn't need to understand the plot, thankfully, otherwise I'd have had some trouble with this one. I absolutely loved this novel, one of my favourite contemps that I've read this year, but the only thing that stopped me from rating it higher than four stars was the fact that I didn't really GET the narrator — maybe I missed something, or something was changed between the Netgalley version and the print version, but I felt like it should've been more clearly stated to get the full impact.

    Awesome review! 🙂
    Kara @ Diary of a Te recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books For Readers Who Like Character Driven NovelsMy Profile

  12. I've been obsessing to read this one for ages—now I know what needs to be on my wish-list for Christmas! I'm finding that there are so many good contemporaries being released this fall, and this probably stays at the top of my must-needed list. It sounds like it has everything I'm looking for—darker issues and lyrical writing. Great review Jeann! I'm glad you really liked this despite the unlikeable characters.
    Michelle @ A Thousan recently posted…A Thousand Lives Lived’s Halloween Spookabookish ReadathonMy Profile

  13. I'm glad you liked it Jeann! Though personally, I don't think I could get through a book about mean people and bullies (though I'm not sure if this will stop me from reading it). I HATE MEAN PEOPLE. They are mean 😛 😛
    Valerie recently posted…Review: Dangerous GirlsMy Profile

    • I totally agree and I'm actually quite interested how books with mean characters seem to be more popular these days – and even pulled off well so that we enjoy it! (eg. I enjoyed Side Effects May Vary as well)

  14. I have heard quite a few mixed reviews about this one, and I'm glad to hear that you liked this one that much despite how unlikeable some of the characters were!

    It's fantastic that we get to see books from very many different and varied perspectives, even from those of the bullies and villains out there.

    Fantastic review, Jeann!
    Pili recently posted…Crushed by Eliza Crewe Blog Tour: Review!!My Profile

  15. This one was truly beautiful and I loved the non linear plot of the story. Liz was a fanatastic character because I never hated her but I didn't particularly like her either. I just understood her. I agree that this one isn't all the memorable–too many cliché's but it was a great reading experience and agreta book for the first time author!

    Beautiful review 🙂
    lily recently posted…Black Ice: ReviewMy Profile

    • I like creative storytelling techniques as well, and the writing was beautiful. Yeah, Liz was a despicable character from all of her actions though. Regardless, the author definitely did well!

  16. Oh I didn't realize that Teas was from the POV of a bully-Well, that's intriguing!

    A lot of reviewers have pointed out that they felt very little empathy towards Liz and that reminds me of Courtney Summers's novels. I don't usually mind unlikeable characters as long as they add value to the story instead of just being plain annoying. Also physics references-Aaaah I think I'll like this one!

    Definitely pushing this up my TBR list-Brilliantly reviewed, Jeann! 🙂
    Nuzaifa @ Say It wit recently posted…Currently … Page 279 of 365My Profile

    • Yeah, Liz wasn't a very likable character at all, but luckily the beautiful writing kept me going. The physics references were definitely unique, it went over my head though. Thank you Nuzaifa!

  17. I have been hearing some very mixed things about this book, Jeann. People either hate it or they love it. I'm glad you are in the latter group. I don't think is the right book for me. You know how I tend to shy away from sad books.

    Still, I'm happy that you enjoyed this emotional book so much.

    Lovely review!
    Nick @ Nick's B recently posted…Review : Whisper the Dead by Alyxandra HarveyMy Profile

  18. This sounds almost like a carbon copy of The Truth About Alice. The bullying, multiple points of view of what happened. But rather than just one bully, Alice had several. This sounds like a good read though, but the physiological terms would have had me reaching for Google. They don't sound like they bring anything yo the storyline though, you're right, probably could have done without them.

    Awesome review Jeann <3
    Kelly recently posted…Black Ice by Becca FitzpatrickMy Profile

  19. I definitely have to pick this one up in the near future. It sounds amazingly written. I've always had a thing for lyrical prose and this sounds right up my alley. It's such an interesting choice of exploration to write through the "villain's" eyes. I think I may enjoy this, despite the unlikeable characters. I may get lost in the sea of physics though. Science and I repel each other like oil and water. We don't mix. Physics should get goosebumps at the thought of me trying to understand it :b Fantastic review, Jeann! <33
    Jess @MyReadingDress recently posted…Let Me Ask You: Why the Triangle of Love?My Profile

  20. One thing every review mentions is the writing and I'm a sucker for gorgeous prose! As much as they're unlikable, antagonists have always piqued my interest. It's always refreshing to hear the story from a different perspective. Been setting my eyes on Falling Into Place for a long time now and your review confirmed how much i NEED it in my life 😀
    Alicia recently posted…and i’m back!My Profile

  21. Ohhh, an unfolding mystery is SO my cup of tea. Especially when it comes to suicides. This is a bit like 13 Reasons in that way, then? (Definitely a good thing, if so).

    Cliche mean kids is annoying BUT I suppose in a way it's realistic. As often the popular kids are the mean ones, I guess.

    Anyway, this sounds gorgeously heart-shattering 😀

    • I haven't read Thirteen Reasons Why yet believe it or not, but the plot definitely sounds very similar. Ah yes, I guess we can't always read about happy endings and rainbows and sunshine.

  22. Every review of this is saying nothing but good things! I clearly need to read this soon! I love the concept of this, non linear timelines are always a fave for me. Shame about the cliches and the physics stuff missing the mark but sounds like a fab read nonetheless! Lovely review Jeann!
    Danielle recently posted…Upside Down by Lia Riley | ReviewMy Profile

  23. I've been so keen on this book – for the longest time. I just think the premise sounds amazing.

    For some reason, your explanation of the unlikeableness of the characters reminds me of The Truth About Alice. All of the characters in that were awful except the guy who had a crush on Alice. Which seems to be almost the same as Falling Into Place!

    It's a shame that the physics references weren't interwoven as well as they could have been, because I think it's so unique and awesome to relate something like physics to a really emotional contemporary read.

    I am super intrigued about who the narrator is, and this is still high on my TBR.

    Lovely review, Jeannie <3
    Chiara @ Books for a recently posted…GIFs and Books: A RelationshipMy Profile

    • It definitely DOES remind me of the Truth About Alice, but the execution was quite different. The Truth About Alice felt a bit more cliche and empty with the characters, this one had better character development and writing I think. Oh I never did physics in school so it went over my head, and yes it was pretty unique! Glad to hear you're keen on picking it up Chiara1