Rating: 4 Stars
Synopsis via Goodreads:
On the day Liz Emerson tries to die, they had reviewed Newton’s laws of motion in physics class. Then, after school, she put them into practice by running her Mercedes off the road.
Why? Why did Liz Emerson decide that the world would be better off without her? Why did she give up? Vividly told by an unexpected and surprising narrator, this heartbreaking and nonlinear novel pieces together the short and devastating life of Meridian High’s most popular junior girl. Mass, acceleration, momentum, force—Liz didn’t understand it in physics, and even as her Mercedes hurtles toward the tree, she doesn’t understand it now. How do we impact one another? How do our actions reverberate? What does it mean to be a friend? To love someone? To be a daughter? Or a mother? Is life truly more than cause and effect? Amy Zhang’s haunting and universal story will appeal to fans of Lauren Oliver, Gayle Forman, and Jay Asher.
Did you know this cover is shiny? I didn’t. I do now. It’s real pretty, guys.
BUT. Obviously that’s not why I gave this book four out of five stars.
I gave it four out of five stars because I am too used to starting and finishing a book in one sitting with the occasional breaks for the bathroom and food, and when I do not finish a book in one sitting it is either because (1) I am incredibly bored and it is likely this will either be a DNF for me or a very low rating, (2) I have to actually go to bed because it’s four in the morning and I tend to be cranky when I don’t get enough sleep, or (3) the extremely rare possibility that a book is hurting my heart so much I cannot physically or emotionally read the book in one sitting. In this rare case, I can usually be found pulling out my hair, possibly crying, and/or reminiscing about my own emotional turmoil. If I’m being honest with myself, it’s usually all of the above.
You wanna guess which category this fell into for me?
I was not expecting this to be as painful as it was. From the synopsis, you understand the kind of genre this is going to fall into. But only a handful of this kind of heartfelt genre are able to actually knock into me, and, god-gone-it, this one did a fine job of doing just that.
You are not meant to like Liz. You are meant to pity her, hate her, and then hate yourself and the world we live in. It’s that kind of book.
Liz Emerson is not a nice girl. She is at the top of the social ladder in high school, and not many people get to that spot unless they plow down a few people in their path. For Liz Emerson, this means both the people closest to her and people most distant from her. People she does not know and does not care to know. And she hates herself for it, yes, but not enough to stop or try to be better in any way. And so she is a miserable creature that you cannot help but hate. But at the same time, I loved that I hated her, because her lack of redeeming qualities is real. Sometimes, we just don’t see anything redeemable in ourselves and it’s not cookie-cutter simple.
But things rarely are.
What annoyed me, however, was the reason I stopped myself from giving this five stars. Whenever I read a book in this particular genre, I typically get the type of girl that is Liz – popular, rich, pretty, has everything going for her – but is hurting more than anyone can ever see, or, we get a character like Hannah Baker from Thirteen Reasons Why – unpopular, bullied, basically the exact opposite of Liz Emerson. And while I love both of these characters for different reasons and they’re described beautifully in their own way, I just don’t think a personality of a person who deals with anxiety, depression, etc, etc, can be chalked up to an either Liz or Hannah character.
Obviously, I don’t think authors mean to do this when they write this kind of genre. But from the books I’ve read in this genre, it seems the character is either one or the other, the popular or bullied, the shunned or envied. Obviously, we cannot successfully carve our way through a person’s character by giving these black and white descriptions.
What I’d like to see is a character in this genre that isn’t popular or unpopular, but somewhere in the middle. The character that may not care so much about how they’re seen in school or about who’s kissing who and getting hurt by their longtime crush. Obviously, all these things are real and do happen, but I’m having trouble sometimes seeing more diversity in characters along this genre.
I want to see the kind of character that isn’t necessarily depressed or suicidal because of being bullied or their parents’ expectations of them or from any of the other typically used situations in this genre. I want to see a character that is normal, but doesn’t particularly care if they’re seen as weird or odd by their classmates. I want to see a character that isn’t involved in all the parties or lusting after another person and whose peers don’t particularly care about social rank or this notion of being normal or fitting in in high school.
Because, obviously, there is no such thing as black and white anymore.
I’d really like to see a character of this genre not be depressed mostly because of what’s going on with their social status – or lack thereof – at school or because of their lack of healthy friendships and relationships alike, but I’d really like to read a well-written story about a character who’s depressed because, gosh darn it, sometime people just get depressed. A lot of the times, you cannot point to events in a person’s life and say this, this, and that are what started/helped along this person’s depression. Sometimes, a person is depressed because of a chemical imbalance, and sometimes that depression goes away for a period of time and then comes back. Sometimes, depression never goes away and stays at the same, somewhat manageable level and sometimes it doesn’t.
Liz Emerson’s story is not solely told from her perspective or even from her friends perspective. It’s sometimes told from a third party that sees things as they are, and, gosh darn it, no one is innocent in this. Everyone is involved in an event like this, even if they didn’t mean to be. And it’s sad, oh-so very heartbreaking when a book like this comes along and all the pieces are put together like this.