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The Physics of Falling

Amy Zhang's debut novel Falling Into Place explores the life -- and death -- of a mean girl.

The Physics of Falling

BOOK REPORT for Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang

Cover Story: The Science of Crashing
BFF Charm: Nay
Swoonworthy Scale: 3
Talky Talk: Do You Even Go Here?
Bonus Factor: Mysterious Narrator
Relationship Status: I’ll See You Again

Cover Story: The Science of Crashing

As far as covers go, this one isn’t bad – although a cartoonish depiction of a car crash is not necessarily something I’d pick up off the shelf. It does tie into the book, though, and the equations are there for a reason.

The Deal:

Liz Emerson is the mean-girl queen bee of her high school, and she wants to kill herself. On the day she purposely runs her Mercedes off the road, her physics class was reviewing Newton’s Laws of Motion. An unstoppable force herself, until the end, Liz’s life hangs in the balance.

But why did she want to kill herself? She has looks, popularity, money, and friends, and isn’t that enough?

This book explores the impact even mean girls make upon the world, and how each action reverberates around a person’s social circle. If you’re thinking “we’ve seen this before,” you’re absolutely right – but Zhang’s writing style is lovely and worth checking out.

I didn’t realize until I was writing this review, however, that this lady is still in high school. That’s right, a young adult novel written by an actual young adult! Her voice is strikingly mature, however, and she writes some fantastic turns of phrase. It’s a very strong debut, even if the tale is familiar (it's what you would get if The Truth About Alice met If I Stay).

BFF Charm: Nay

Liz is a jerk. In fact, most of the people in the book are jerks in their own way. As you might guess, this brutally mean girl has a wounded soul, and the book explores why she acts the way she acts. I get it, but ain’t no way this girl is getting my BFF charm.

Swoonworthy Scale: 3

The boy who has been crushing on Liz from afar – and tries to save her – is a pretty nice guy, but there’s no real swoon quotient here.

Talky Talk: Do You Even Go Here?

Sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll are Liz’s escapes, to say nothing of poor body image, an absent mother, dead father, and lily-livered friends. Zhang often writes with short sentences for impact. Her dialogue is simple, biting, and true to teen form: “My mom’s being a bitch. Surprise.” Everyone is angry or lost in this book, and it comes through in their words.

Bonus Factor: Mysterious Narrator

Who is telling Liz’s story? It was one of the most interesting parts of the novel, and it’s not entirely clear upon finishing who it’s supposed to be. (I’ve seen several cool theories.)

Casting Call:

Ashley Benson as Liz Emerson

Relationship Status: I’ll See You Again

Book, you were pretty cool. You had a great way with words, and even though I might have heard similar stories to yours, I like the way you told it. This was a pretty good first date, and I suspect you might be on a rollercoaster that only goes up.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received an ARC from Harper Collins Children’s Books. I received neither money nor a pet unicorn for writing this review, despite how hard I wished for one.  Falling Into Place is available now.

Jennie's photo About the Author: Jennie Kendrick lives in San Francisco and has an excessive fondness of historical fiction, spreadsheets, turquoise sparkly things, and bourbon. She is also a literary agent with Lupine Grove Creative. When she's not reading, writing, or writing about reading, she cooks obsessively, runs an Etsy shop, and thrifts for vintage everything.