How We Fall Apart

Bloomsbury. Aug. 2021. 352p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781547603978.
Gr 9 Up–In this dark, thrilling mystery, high school junior Nancy Luo’s former best friend Jamie is found dead. Nancy and her three friends are taunted by an anonymous person known as The Proctor. They are in a race against time as they try to uncover The Proctor’s identity before their secrets are exposed to the entire school on a social app, Tip Tap. Secrets shared on Tip Tap have real consequences, including ostracizing, suspensions, or even loss of scholarships. Nancy’s story alternates between the past and present as she remembers how Jamie belittled her, instilled fear into her, and used her own good deeds to get Nancy to do whatever she wanted. After taking an emotional beating the majority of the story, Nancy learns how to stick up for herself, which will be a relief to readers. Nancy endures school stress, the impact of social media gossip, low self-confidence, and the high expectations of her parents, who are Chinese immigrants. Zhao sheds light on the competitiveness students face in the private school sector, driven by parents and social media. This story includes scenes of drug use, excessive bullying, suicide, and a romantic relationship between a teacher and a student.
VERDICT Readers who love Karen M. McManus will enjoy this fast-paced, dramatic story.

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