How We Fall Apart by Katie Zhao is a freshly released young adult, mystery thriller. Set at prestigious, Sinclair Prep, Nancy’s best friend, Jamie is missing and later, found dead. Things turn for the worse when Nancy and her friends are incriminated in Jamie’s murder by a social media presence called ‘The Proctor’. Someone out there knows all of their deepest, darkest secrets and if the world finds out, they’ll lose everything they’ve worked for.
If you read my August TBR post, you’ll know that I was hyped for this. Think Pretty Little Liars meets One of Us Is Lying but make it Asian American. What’s not to like? Turns out, a fair bit. Let’s start with what I did like.
I really enjoyed how we focused on the academic pressure in Asian societies. It felt very realistic and believable. The stress of having to be the best, the expectations of your parents and not wanting to waste their hardships of migrating to a Western country. I felt all of that.
This was a quick and fast read. It wasn’t something I read in one sitting, but even with the little bursts, I finished this quickly. The book is only around 300 pages, so it’s something you can get through easily. The writing also contributes to the ‘easy read’. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I think younger ‘young adults’ will enjoy the writing.
The characters all felt like they had potential. Their morals and decision making were questionable at times making them very complex characters. However, we didn’t explore that very much. It was barely touched upon. Even Nancy, who we see the entire book from, didn’t feel that developed. I couldn’t tell you much about her except that she really wanted to excel.
The mystery aspect of this book wasn’t very mysterious. I predicted it from the start and I think it had been made too obvious. There weren’t any other suspects introduced that it could’ve been. There were no red herrings or twist and turns. The only thing that caught me off guard was the ‘how’. I may have to re-read to confirm this, and you can correct me if I’m wrong, but I couldn’t think of any hints or clues that were dropped to allude to the ‘how’.
I didn’t find the book to be very ‘thrilling’. The only part that had my heart even slightly racing was near the end, with the shorter chapters and countdown.
The whole idea of wanting to stop ‘The Proctor’ is to keep their secrets a secret because they’re so bad. The stakes were high and I was so here for it. However, every time a secret was dropped, there were no consequences. Like, everyone just moved on. After the first time that happened, I found myself less interested in what happened to the characters.
There were a few things that I didn’t find very realistic or believable in the story. First thing, what is it with these mass texts? Never, in my entire high school career have I received a mass text. Is this an American thing? The next thing was the police involvement – or lack there of. I kept waiting for police officers to step in or even do an interview with the ‘suspects aka the main characters’, but it never happened. Another thing that made it hard to believe this story. Last thing was the ending. I don’t even know what to say about that.
The story ends on a cliffhanger and I’m curious to see what happens in the next book. Hopefully, it improves. Currently undecided if I’ll be picking up the next book.
Overall, it wasn’t something I disliked. I was disappointed by it, but expectations aside, it was a decent read. I think those that enjoyed Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars will enjoy this. Ideal for younger readers or those new to reading mystery.