Series: How We Fall Apart #1
Published by Bloomsbury YA on August 17, 2021
Genres: Suspense, Young Adult
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Nancy Luo is shocked when her former best friend, Jamie Ruan, top ranked junior at Sinclair Prep, goes missing, and then is found dead. Nancy is even more shocked when word starts to spread that she and her friends--Krystal, Akil, and Alexander--are the prime suspects, thanks to "The Proctor," someone anonymously incriminating them via the school's social media app.
They all used to be Jamie's closest friends, and she knew each of their deepest, darkest secrets. Now, somehow The Proctor knows them, too. The four must uncover the true killer before The Proctor exposes more than they can bear and costs them more than they can afford, like Nancy's full scholarship. Soon, Nancy suspects that her friends may be keeping secrets from her, too.
Students at an elite prep school are forced to confront their secrets when their ex-best friend turns up dead.
How We Fall Apart is a YA mystery thriller with Asian main characters, and I really enjoyed it! Set at an elite private school, it explores the immense pressure of academic performance on students, in particular Asian students. It touches on important themes such as friendship rivalry, classism and the illusion of being perfect, mental health, parental pressures and toxic friendships.
Written by an own voices Chinese-American author, I can definitely understand the toxicity when it comes to academic performance and the pressure it comes with – I’ve been there. It’s refreshing to see a book broach these topics, and to highlight how it can be tackled not only within the education system, but also within your peers.
How We Fall Apart exudes Gossip Girl vibes, as the student body trawls a gossip app for the latest on the most popular kids in their school. After finding out about Jamie Ruan’s death, her closest friends are suddenly targeted by a mysterious texter called “The Proctor”, who slowly reveals devastating secrets about them that threaten their grades and status. It was fascinating to see what the secrets were as the book went on, and what the consequences were socially and academically. Due to the fast pacing of the novel however, I did find that these consequences were skipped over and soon we were onto the next thing.
I found that the novel touches upon some areas rather than explored it depth – such as Jamie’s bisexual orientation and relationship with one of her friends. It doesn’t really talk about how this would be perceived by her elitist parents, or even how it was linked to her elite status at school. Another thing that would’ve benefited from further exploration was the effects of academic pressures on your mental health, rather than just being touched upon.
While the mystery and the secrets kept me reading, the characters kind of felt one-dimensional – you’ve got Jamie as the mean girl, the jealous BFF, the fashionista, the comedic/clueless one and the one who has a crush on the main character. I didn’t really find myself getting attached to any one of them, but the mystery and the secrets about them certainly kept me reading.
As a light mystery thriller, How We Fall Apart kept me turning the pages as I wanted to find out what happened to Jamie Ruan and the identity of the Proctor. I also appreciated the Asian rep and how compelling the mystery was. While it does skim through some topics, I definitely enjoyed the read and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good contemporary mystery thriller.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Thanks to Bloomsbury Australia for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.
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