September 5, 2014

Review: Falling into Place + an Interview with Amy Zhang

Falling into Place by Amy Zhang
Grade: B+
Release date: September 9, 2014
This ARC was provided by Read Between the Lynes in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: 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.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: I've said several times - this book was perhaps my most anticipated read of 2014. Did it live up to all of my expectations? No. Was it still good? Heck yeah. 
I felt a bit disconnected from the characters and I couldn't really relate to any of them (nor did I have a favorite because I like redeemable characters and none of them felt redeemable), but I was invested in their story. I was bothered by the fact that Liz would do nice things, but then still be unnecessarily cruel 90% of the time. The few kind things she did, plus her guilt about the rest, made her very human, though, so I can see how it did work to some extent. Amy's writing style flows nicely; Falling into Place is comprised of many short chapters, which usually annoys me to no end, but here...they work. I enjoyed the unconventional narrator, and I think others will, too. If you liked the narrator for The Book Thief, you'll probably find the appeal in Falling into Place's narrator. The ending felt right. It wasn't cliche and perhaps wasn't what I expected, but I enjoyed it. But most of all, this book made me THINK. I thought about how my words and actions affect others.  I thought about how someone can look so together on the outside but falling to pieces on the inside.  So, props to Amy for creating a book that made me actually contemplate things.
As y'all know, I'm not a fan of a ton of language, or drug/alcohol content, or graphic romantic content. The first two are pretty bad in Falling into Place and also very typical of YA. The third wasn't terribly graphic, just many things mentioned.

The Verdict: Falling into Place was not everything I dreamed it would be, but (at the risk of making an incredibly lame pun) it fell neatly into place.

Plus, Amy was willing to answer some questions, which was so nice of her, considering how busy she's been!

Emma: You're debuting at quite a young age.  How do you think your experience is different than that of an author whose debut title releases when they're maybe just 5 years older than you are now?
Amy: There are the obvious things, like the fact that I have to travel with a parent in order to check into my hotel.  The Greenwillow team goes out of their way to coordinate around my age - for example, they made sure most of my events happen on weekends, and I so appreciate that, since they're obviously not obligated to do anything like that.  Other than that, I don't think my debut experience has been all that different from anyone else's.  I've had the same opportunities and resources, and everyone is so supportive.

Emma: What specifically inspired Falling into Place?
Amy: The book actually started as two short stories: one about a girl who outlined her suicide in terms of Newton's laws of motion, and one about an abandoned imaginary friend.  I also drew things from my own high school experience: the things that made me happy, the things that made me unhappy, the things I felt powerless to change.  Most of all, I think I wanted to write Falling because I wanted a voice.  In a lot of ways, it's a diary with a plot - I used it to work through a lot of opinions and discover new ones.

Emma: What has been the most exciting moment as a debut author?
Amy: So far, I think I've had the most fun at BEA, because there were so many firsts for me there.  I was on my first panel, did my first signing, and it was also my first trade show.  I got to meet so many bloggers and authors, and it was cool to be able to match Twitter handles to faces.  I also had tons of fun at ALA, and I floundered a bit less there (I hope).

Emma: Any advice for teen writers?
Amy: The same advice I have for all writers: Allow yourself to be terrible.  Everyone writes bad things and makes mistakes.  You'll write awful stuff and more awful stuff and somewhere along the way, you'll get better.  Don't procrastinate.  Don't ever give up.

Emma: Can you share anything about what you're working on next?
Amy: Yes!  I'm working on a book tentatively titled This is Where the World Ends right now, which is about a boy who's obsessed with apocalypses and a girl whose goal in life is to make the entire world fall in love with her.  There's spray paint and a coffee shop full of origami cranes and wings made out of dictionaries, and I can't wait to share it with everyone!

Thanks so much for letting me interview you, Amy!  Falling into Place will be available in bookstores this Tuesday, but you can preorder it now.

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