Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang

Falling into Place
Amy Zhang
Greenwillow Books 2014
ISBN 978-0-06-229504-0

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“. . . this passionate story is more valuable for parents to read . . .”

In her debut swiftly-moving teen novel, Falling into Place, Amy Zhang gets up close with the emotional consequences of those who bully, and the recipients of their hurtful actions. In her creative set-up, the story’s narrator is the imaginary character of Liz Emerson who attempts suicide based on Newton’s Laws of Motion: Cause, and effect. In this instance, Liz drives her Mercedes off a cliff.

Zhang delves into the motivations and the misery of the bully. Liz’s pastime is “bullying,” and then hating herself for her behavior. School was an escape from her “enormous, silent house,” but now she really wanted to vanish, because “the hallways were filled with people she had torn apart” by her mean-spirited actions. Liz had used social media to spread lies and gossip, paint derogatory words on student’s lawns and post cruel videos. One student was so humiliated that she killed herself.

Liz was a troubled child herself, blames herself for her father’s death (he fell off a roof chasing after Liz), and she is often home alone, with sounds of emptiness that “echoed” off the walls of the “oversized” house. Her mother, who attempted to be affectionate to her daughter, nevertheless is absent often because her job requires globetrotting for long periods. Meanwhile, Liz becomes popular at Meridian High School, hangs with the in-kids and is always invited to big school events.

On the day Liz plans her suicide, she makes a final plea for help, but the school counselor doesn’t recognize the signs, an opening that allows Zhang to address the “signs of suicide” in her book. Liz suffered deep sadness, and not surprisingly, combatted her painful loneliness with alcohol and drugs. Though aimed at young adults, this passionate story is more valuable for parents to read, and gain insight about teen traumas that persist and are aggravated in our computer-connected times.

Reviewer: Kate Padilla