Archive for the ‘Falling Into Place’ Category

Amy Zhang was in high school when she wrote her debut novel, Falling Into Place. She has followed this up with another ‘not-put-downable’ book, This is Where the World Ends.

Janie and Micah. Micah and Janie. That is how the world should be forever. Two opposites attracted. Janie, the imaginer. The doer. Micah, the follower. The support.

They lived next door to each other, bedrooms facing. Janie would slide a shelf between the rooms and shimmy across. They knew each other inside out…best friends, but nothing more. A world unto themselves.

Until it all fell apart. Right before the beginning of senior year, Janie moved across town to a bigger house that she hated. But she had no say in her parents’ decision. Although still at the same school, things had changed…dramatically.

Janie and Micah’s alternating narrative, the Before and the After, chronicle the disintegration of life, the apocalypse. The Journal of Janie Vivian, words and drawings, embedded in the story, mark the transition from fairy tale to harsh reality.

I’d say Amy Zhang is an author to watch, but with two great books to her credit she has already earned our respect. Now it’s a question of waiting…for her next novel. I know I am.


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Suicide is the third leading cause of death among people ages 10-24 and approximately 4,600 people in this age category die each year from suicide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, more young people survive suicide attempts than actually die. A nationwide survey of youth in grades 9–12 in public and private schools in the United States found that 16% of students reported seriously considering suicide, 13% reported creating a plan, and 8% reporting trying to take their own life in the 12 months preceding the survey. Each year, approximately 157,000 youth between the ages of 10 and 24 receive medical care for self-inflicted injuries at Emergency Departments across the U.S.

The top of a clock tower, contemplating suicide, is a strange place to

AllTheBrightPlacesmeet, but so it was with Theo Finch and Violet Markey. Her sister, Eleanor, dies nine months previously in an auto accident for which Violet feels responsible. It was her idea to take the A Street Bridge which can get treacherously slippery at times. Theo is just trying to get away from a broken family, abusive father and bullies at school calling him Freak.

It is Theo who saves Violet, not only from jumping but from the paralyzed life she is leading. She refused to get into a moving car and rides her bicycle, Leroy, everywhere. She has stopped writing (she and Eleanor had co-authored a blog). She has disengaged from all her friends. When Finch requested to be partnered with Violet in a U.S. Geography project that will force them to travel around the state of Indiana, she is forced into a car and she is forced to write, to things that will get her on the road to recovery.

However, Theo’s issues are more severe. Theo has clearly fallen in love with Violet. She has shown him that there are good days, not only bad ones. And while, in many ways, Violet has saved Theo, the real question is will it be enough.

FallingIntoPlaceWhile I liked All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, I didn’t love it. It is another case of an odd couple, in this case the once-popular girl and the outcast guy. It is also another case of a road trip changing someone’s life. I don’t have a feel for whether Theo rings true because I’ve never known anyone who was extremely bipolar, so it was hard for me to get into his character. The book does provide an interesting contrast in parents when you compare Theo’s to Violet’s and it raises the unanswerable question of ‘should a parent be able recognize that a child needs help or are they always the last one to know?’

A recent book I would recommend about suicide is Falling into Place by Amy Zhang. In that, you can feel the pain.

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FallingIntoPlaceIt is amazing to me that anyone can write a book; that they have ideas that they can verbalize for 200 pages and make people want to read them. The fact that a high school student can write a book, and a good one at that, is even more amazing to me. But Amy Zhang did it with Falling Into Place.

Liz Emerson is a high school junior when she plows her mother’s Mercedes into a tree at high speed—on purpose. Unfortunately the attempted suicide failed, at first. A boy who has loved her from afar since 5th grade, Liam, saw the wreckage on the side of the road and called 911. The paramedics come and transport her to the hospital. There is extensive bodily damage, as you can imagine, and several surgeries are required. It is touch and go.

What Zhang did with this book is delve into why Liz is what she is–a bully, an in-crowd bully. No one is immune to her barbs and her influence, even her best friends Julia and Kennie. The chapters go back and forth in time. There’s a chapter “55 Days Before Liz Emerson Crashed Her Car” and then “5 Days…” and then “45 Days…” There are chapters after the accident. There is an unknown narrator in some chapters marked “Snapshot”. However, it works.

Zhang clearly delineates between the kids who truly care about Liz (Liam, Julia and Kennie) and status seeking friend wannabees who visibly weep, congregate at the hospital and talk about how wonderful Liz is. Liz is a real person who sees what she is, wants to change but can’t. She wants to make amends but doesn’t know how. The parents in Falling Into Place do not come off well in this book. They are absent, unobservant, domineering and the impact on their children is evident.

Readers will like the people they’re supposed to like (Liz being among these) and dislike those they were meant to dislike.

If Zhang can write a book like Falling Into Place as a high schooler, imagine what she’ll write as she matures and hones her craft. Read this so you can say you knew her when (and because it’s worth reading!).


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