Reviews

How We Fall Apart, by Katie Zhao

daphnereads_'s review against another edition

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i genuinely cant figure out if i liked this or not…so for now there’s not gonna be a rating lmfao

mallikasen's review against another edition

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dark mysterious tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.0

dianetbooks's review against another edition

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dark mysterious fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

2.5

Nancy Luo is the second-rank student at her cut-throat elite private high school, Sinclair Prep, where students are consistently pushed to their breaking points to achieve academic excellence. When the top ranked student and her former best friend Jamie Ruan is murdered, Nancy and her three best friends are thrown into the spotlight as prime suspects, and they must fight to keep their secrets buried and prove their innocence. 

As a quick disclaimer, my review is based on the ARC of this novel, which is almost exactly 300 pages. The finished copy is marketed as 352 pages, so I worry my review might be a little out of date!

Zhao created a page-turning thriller that methodically unravels the lives of several high-achieving teenagers, revealing the deep sacrifices and resulting trauma that enabled their academic success. I really love the premise, and I felt Zhao did a great job avoiding predictability. 

Unfortunately, I think this novel lacked depth in a lot of components. There were so many twists and turns- averaging about one twist per chapter- that there wasn’t enough room to build suspense. Likewise, most characters felt one-dimensional, and it felt like there wasn’t enough room to explore each individual’s story within such a complex plot. Unfortunately I similarly felt there wasn’t enough room to fully explore some of the larger themes that Zhao’s work touched on- such as classism and racism within private academia. 

I am curious to see more reviews of the finished copy, since I’m wondering if the somewhat significant length increase addresses some of my concerns with the book! Overall I think this is a story set up on an interesting premise, but it fell short in execution for me. 

Thank you to Bloomsbury for the gifted ARC of How We Fall Apart in exchange for my honest review! 

readwgauri's review against another edition

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3.0

2.5/3 stars

there's nothing worse than a thriller which is not thrilling in the slightest.

i had high hopes for how we fall apart. while this book is what it promises us, dark academia with an asian-american cast, it fell flat. its not the best thriller out there but its pretty fast paced which was the only reason why i liked it. i did not feel the curiosity of finding the person behind it all as i should've been. otherwise, all the characters felt superficial and unlikeable. i really really wish they would've been more developed or had more of a backstory. not kidding when i say the gossip girl/pll vibes are deep rooted. most scenarios seemed ridiculous. i did find the whole mystery part predictable and the cause of jamie's death was way too simple. i was looking forward to this mainly because i thought it would discuss the problems of immigrants, asian immigrants at that, but the struggles were only mentioned throughout and again lacked depth. i understand the pressure asian parents put on children, so nancy's constant need to not disappoint them felt somewhat real.

uhh i feel like the ending was done like that just to make this a duology but anyway, i'm awaiting it to see what more clownery happens in sinclair prep.

thank you bloomsbury and netgalley for the arc

booksthatburn's review against another edition

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dark mysterious tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? It's complicated
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

5.0

HOW WE FALL APART is a dark academia thriller where four Asian-American high school students have to find their former friend's true killer before their darkest secrets are dragged into the light.

I love Nancy as an unabashed morally grey character. She has things she wants and lines she won’t cross (at least so far), but those lines don’t seem to be dictated by other people’s expectations. It’s the difference between wanting to not be bad and not wanting to get caught. Jamie Ruan, only present in flashbacks, is a fascinating and complex character, shown in a way that makes it easy to understand why Nancy would both hate her so much and have been her friend for so long. I don't feel like I really got to know Krystal and Akil that well in the present, Alexander had much more of a presence, and Jamie's shadow loomed large over the whole thing. 

I wish “The Incident” hadn’t spent so long being teased before finally being explained because I prefer feeling like I could guess what’s happening before it’s revealed and this style meant I couldn’t, but the payoff was worth it and I ended up liking the final revelation. Glancing back through the early parts of the book, it had some pretty consistent but subtle foreshadowing as to who was involved, even thought I'm pretty sure it would be tricky to guess why one a first read.

The ending begs for a sequel and it looks like one is planned. As it stands, there’s enough closure to be satisfying, but it teases potential future developments that I hope can play out in another volume.

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lillyfei's review against another edition

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4.0

Nancy and her friends are shocked when their ex-friend and star student, Jamie, is found dead. Now, a mysterious person called The Proctor is hiding behind social media and exposing their secrets one by one. The friends have their scholarships and social lives at stake if their darkest secrets are revealed. Nancy races to identify The Proctor and hopefully solve who killed Jamie.

A bit like Gossip Girl and a bit like Pretty Little Liars, How We Fall Apart was a great debut from Katie Zhao. It hooked me from page one and I kept hoping for more free time so I could read faster.

I didn't predict the end at all. Even though it did seem a bit unrealistic at times, it gave me the drama and suspense I was hoping for. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I knew the book would give me representation and some dark academia. It succeeded without being overwhelming or stereotypical.

I was hoping for a bit more character development, but I did like how there wasn't a typical fairytale ending. The characters all had their own flaws and seeing that those flaws didn't just go away at the end felt authentic.

I'm not sure if a trigger warning is necessary for this book, but readers should be aware that death is a prominent theme. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more by Katie Zhao!

librarian_erinn's review

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dark emotional mysterious tense fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.0

behoa's review against another edition

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4.0

review to come soon once the embargo has been lifted, as requested by the publisher

betweenfoldedpages's review against another edition

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4.0

How We Fall Apart by Katie Zhao

Publication Date : August 3, 2021
4.5 STARS //

Review Copy, I received a free copy of this book from Edelweiss and Bloomsbury in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Dark academia murder mystery with an Asian American cast! Ten pages in and I was hooked. This book was so good, I absolutely loved it.

This really felt like Pretty Little Liars but in a very prestigious school. I really like the setting, and how it showed the real struggles of how competitive academics can be. The pressure these students feel to be perfect, seems impossible to achieve.

When one of Nancy’s classmates in found dead accompanied by an anonymous message posted to an app accusing her and her three friends. They are determined to
find out who it is before their secrets are revealed to everyone.

I really loved the writing style, it flowed well and each character felt like they had a unique voice. The tension between The Proctor and the group of friends was so good! I cannot wait for more books from Katie Zhao. I highly recommend.