I’m very rarely a fan of stories about the mean, rich, popular, pretty girl who also has problems, and you should be nice to them because they are the most tortured of us all. I find them cloying – if being popular is so hard, why don’t you just…not be in the popular clique? (You can tell that I was not a popular person in high school.)
That being said, despite my reservations, I did enjoy this book. The protagonist is Liz Emerson, a rich, pretty, popular girl a la Regina George of Mean Girls – she’s a bully with a posse that takes its cues from her. However, one sunny day she tries to commit suicide by running her car off the road. That’s the crux of the story, and an unnamed narrator follows Liz’s life, her friends, the people she hurt and what makes a bully do what they do.
Like I said, I’m not a fan of the Popular Mean Girl character, but there’s no denying Amy Zhang is a compelling writer and Falling Into Place is a compelling read. The narrative jumps from memory to memory, points in time and points of view, which gives us a chance to see how Liz affects the people around her. While Liz herself can be a little hard to relate to, just because she is often disproportionately mean to people, the side characters are fascinating and deserve more time – her friends Kennie and Julia and the boy who secretly likes her, Liam, are given enough background and agency to be interesting, and are certainly much nicer than she is.
It’s a harrowing read, full of darkness and drugs and betrayal, but it also reads as a touching, truthful portrayal of high school and teenagers. Zhang writes in modern touches like Facebook and smartphones without coming off as cheesy and awkward, and her prose is lyrical and moving without being overly pretentious.
A great book for young adults, if a bit dark for early teens.