As a survivor of a Middle School, where each day brought a new fresh hell, and a High School that wasn’t completely horrible, I’ve found that I am no plebeian to bullying. I saw it everywhere, especially in Middle School. I wasn’t one of the “popular” kids but I didn’t need to be. Nor did I strive to be. I had my own solid group of friends that helped me to become who I am. They were the types of people that I could count on and for most part, to this day, I still do. Over the years, however, I’ve come to realize that the types of bullies in my life were the ones who I called friends. Thankfully those people are no longer in my life and I am thankful that I was not a victim to the heinous acts that I’ve heard so much about in books, movies, television and in everyday life.
In all of these cases, when I heard about bullying, it was always about who that person bullied. It wasn’t about how mean or disrespectful the bully was, but what could that person have done to that bully to be treated that way. I’ve seen bullies portrayed as these powerful beings who like to tear others down in order feel influential. We’re shown how being bullied can change how a person looks at the world. How being bullied can give you a false impression of yourself and in some cases, can cause you to take drastic measures. The bullied are portrayed as victims. Victims of circumstance. But what we’re not always shown is how bullying can affect the bully.
In Falling into Place, Liz Emerson is a bully. She bullies those who are victims of circumstance. They were in the wrong place at the wrong time. They are the people who wore the “wrong” clothes, who acted the “wrong” way, talked to the “wrong” people and had the “wrong” interests. But the truth is, the only “wrong” they actually committed was that they happened to be in Liz Emerson’s way. But Liz Emerson is not just a bully. She is also a victim. A victim of choice.
In Falling into Place Liz Emerson feels as though she has no choice in what she does. She tears other people down to simple watch them fall. She doesn’t bully others to lift her own self esteem. She doesn’t bully others to make herself seem cooler to her peers. She doesn’t bully others because she gets some kind of satisfaction out of it. She does it because she feels like she has to. She has forgotten that she can make her own choices and that she can choose the way her life plays out. This is the reason why she is a bully. This is also one of the reasons why she wants to die. To Liz Emerson, this is the one choice that she can make absolutely. She felt as if she had no power over her actions towards others, but she can choose which actions to impose on herself. She can choose to end her own life.
I met Amy Zhang about a month and a half ago at Books of Wonder, here in New York. She spoke about how she was bullied when she was in school and how that experience influenced and changed her. She spoke about the damage that Liz Emerson invokes upon others and how that damage came right back to bite her. Like Newton’s 3rd law states, “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction,” but this law affected Liz Emerson in a way that you might not immediately expect.
Falling into Place sheds light on the fact that you can never truly know what another person is going through. It’s book that focuses on action and reaction. The different forces at work. The reasons why we are the way we are. Falling into Place is thought provoking, as well as, heart breaking and I would highly recommend it.