Falling into Place by Amy Zhang

Falling into Place by Amy ZhangLiz Emerson is one of the most popular girls in school, and from the outside it seems like she lives the perfect life. However, she secretly is suffering on the inside and is afraid to ask for help. Instead, she decides to leave her life entirely and plans to drive her car off the road and make it look like an accident. What she didn’t count on was that she wouldn’t be killed instantly, but would instead survive and be taken to the hospital in critical condition, where the doctors say the only way she will survive is if she wants to keep fighting to live.

This was a really powerful story that reminded me a bit of Gayle Forman’s If I Stay. However in this story, Liz was purposely trying to kill herself, and instead of the story being told from her point of view it is actually told by a narrator who isn’t identified until the end of the book. The narration jumps back and forth between the narrator watching Liz’s friends and family in the days after the accident and flashbacks of what Liz’s life was like before the accident and how everything led up to that point.

Liz’s father died when she was very young and her mother works a job that keeps her traveling most of the time so Liz spends most of her time alone. This is definitely a big factor contributing to her depression, and leads to her reckless behavior like drinking and driving erratically. It seems that Liz does things like that just to avoid being bored and alone with her own thoughts. What depresses Liz most of all is herself–she has an extreme case of self-loathing and feels that by killing herself she is making the world better. Liz’s hatred of herself comes from the way she treats people–she acts like a mean girl most of the time at school, messing up the lives of those who wrong her even in the slightest way, and then once she realizes how much she hurts people she regrets it and hates herself for what she has done.

The sad thing is that you can see how much Liz is trying to hint that she needs help, especially during the last week of her life. Everyone is so consumed with their own lives or they think that because Liz is rich and popular her life is therefore perfect, and this blinds them to what is really going on. The only one who watches Liz and seems to care about getting to know the real Liz Emerson is Liam, a boy from a different crowd at school who is the first to see Liz’s accident and call the police.

Overall, Falling into Place was a powerful story that was difficult to put down. I am still in awe of the fact that Amy Zhang is still a high school student and she was able to write this amazing book!

Falling into Place will be released on September 9, 2014.

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Me Since You by Laura Wiess

Me Since You by Laura WiessRowan Areno never realized how one event could change the lives of so many people. Rowan is a normal sixteen year old girl who tries to cut school one day. Her police officer father finds her and brings her home, and because of this he is in the area when a call comes through about a man about to commit suicide on the overpass across from their house. Rowan and her mother watch through the window as Rowan’s father and an innocent boy walking his dog on the overpass try to convince the man not to kill himself and his three month old son. The results of this tragic event change the lives of all involved, and Rowan has to try to figure out how to move on with her life and deal with grief and loss.

This book was so sad, but so good. Rowan’s parents are very overprotective of her, mainly because her father is a police officer and knows the kinds of things that can happen to teenage girls. Rowan is in that stage where her parents are annoying to her and she can’t understand why they are constantly trying to protect her. She wants to go out with her friend Nadia, who is a terrible influence and an even worse friend, and party with boys. But when the event on the overpass happens, Rowan begins to see life differently.

Rowan’s father has a very hard time dealing with what happened on the overpass, especially once the police video of the event gets leaked to the press. The entire town has to give their opinion on how the event should have been handled, and many people don’t think Rowan’s father did his job properly. He sinks into a deep depression, and Rowan and her mother have to try their best to help him while they both deal with the entire town talking about them.

Rowan finds comfort in a boy, Eli, who was walking his dog on the overpass the day of the event. He is also having trouble dealing with the fallout, and has experienced a recent loss in his life. Through Eli, Rowan is once again able to find happiness in life and is able to begin to move on and stop defining her life in terms of Before and After. Eli is a really great character, forced to grow up fast because of his loss, and he is extremely loving to his dog, Daisy. He and Rowan are able to help each other through the tough moments of their lives and they are both able to recover together.

Overall, Me Since You was a really beautiful story about coping with loss. It was a really well written and powerful story that will definitely stay with you.

Me Since You will be released on February 18, 2014.

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick“I’m trying to let him know what I’m about to do. I’m hoping he can save me, even though I realize he can’t.”

On his birthday, Leonard Peacock decides to bring his grandfather’s old war pistol to school with the intention of killing his former best friend and then himself. Before he does this however, he must say goodbye to the four people in his life that he cares about the most. As he says goodbye to each person, Leonard reveals more and more about his secrets and the reason for this murder-suicide.

I decided to read this book because it was written by the author of Silver Linings Playbook, which I haven’t gotten a chance to read yet but I’m sure I’ll enjoy because I loved the movie. I’m so glad I picked this book up, because while it was about a dark subject, the story itself was actually very beautiful.

Leonard is not the average teenager. It is evident that he has suffered a great deal more than many kids his age, and he hasn’t had a great support system to help him through his problems. His father left years ago and his mother spends most of her time in an apartment in Manhattan so that she can be close to her work and her boyfriend. This leaves Leonard by himself in his mother’s house in New Jersey, which is such an absurd parenting situation and is just plain lonely for Leonard. At the beginning of the book we learn that it’s Leonard’s birthday, and also the day he has decided to kill his former best friend and himself. Before Leonard does this however, he must say goodbye to the four people who have made a difference in his life.

As Leonard says goodbye to each person, we get flashbacks of his relationship with each of them. He has a very different relationship with each of them and each has brought a different meaning to his life. He says goodbye to his neighbor, Walt, who is an old man that watches Humphrey Bogart movies with Leonard, a fellow student, Baback, who is a talented violinist, a home schooled church girl, Lauren, and his favorite teacher, Herr Silverman. Each of these people has made a huge difference in his life without even realizing it, and as he visits each one, more and more of Leonard’s past is revealed.

This story is really beautiful because it shows that the briefest relationship can have so much meaning in someone’s life. It also shows how much a lack of a relationship can harm someone. If Leonard’s mother had been around more, or if she had actually put her son before her work, his life would probably have been very different. I loved the relationships between each character and Leonard and I liked the slow reveal of each character’s meaning and the stories from Leonard’s past. I honestly didn’t expect the reason behind Leonard’s intended murder-suicide, and the slow way that it was revealed really made more of an impact when I finally learned the truth.

Overall, this was a beautiful story with a very important message. Leonard was a very genuine character and I felt like I was really able to connect with his story. While the subject matter is not at all light, I would highly recommend this book.

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock was released on August 13, 2013.

This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

“I don’t know how I’m going to do this, move through the hours like someone who wants to still be breathing when I had so firmly made up my mind to stop.”

Sloane Price had decided to end her life. Her sister ran away six months ago and left her with her physically abusive father and she has nobody left in the world. On the day she decides to kill herself, the world as we know it comes to an end. All of a sudden the dead do not stay dead–they rise again to infect the living. Sloane ends up with a group of her peers taking shelter at their high school. However, while all of the other teenagers are fighting for survival, Sloane is just awaiting the moment when the living dead break down the barricades and finally end her life for her.

This is Not a Test is a book about the zombie apocalypse, but it is also about so much more than that. I picked it up because I had heard good things about Courtney Summers and I am a HUGE fan of zombie stuff. I am pleased to say that I was VERY impressed with this book. While this is a zombie book, the zombie apocalypse is really only the setting for a much deeper story. There are scary and suspenseful moments while the kids are all hiding out in the school or running from zombies, but this book also deals with so many deeper issues. Sloane has been abused by her father for years and the only person she was able to rely on was her older sister. When her sister ran away it left her feeling abandoned and betrayed and she no longer saw a reason to live. This book is about survival, but yet Sloane doesn’t actually want to survive. However, the five people sharing her shelter desperately do want to live. They all soon come to realize that while the greatest threat outside may be the zombies, the greatest threat inside is actually each other.

I cannot say enough good things about this book. Courtney Summers has a writing style that is absolutely incredible. After I read this book I decided that I had to read everything else she has ever written because I admired her writing so much. The pacing in This is Not a Test is perfect, the characters have their own individuality and depth, and the overall story is so moving. Throughout the whole book, Sloane is trying to figure out what her reason is for surviving against the odds and where she actually belongs in this new world. I couldn’t put this book down because I was so anxious to find out if Sloane would finally discover her will to survive. I highly recommend this book, even to people who normally don’t like zombie books, because the story is really so much more than just that.

This is Not a Test was released on June 19, 2012 and is a standalone novel.