Book Review — How We Fall Apart by Katie Zhao

I received an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of this book from Netgalley and Bloomsbury YA. This has not impacted my rating and this review is voluntary.

  • Genre: YA Fiction, Dark Academia
  • Published by: Bloomsbury YA
  • Publish date: August 17, 2021
  • Number of pages: 351 pages
  • Author’s website:
  • Support local! Buy the book on BookShop!

In a YA thriller that is Crazy Rich Asians meets One of Us is Lying, students at an elite prep school are forced to confront their secrets when their ex-best friend turns up dead.Nancy Luo is shocked when her former best friend, Jamie Ruan, top-ranked junior at Sinclair Prep, goes missing, and then is found dead. Nancy is even more shocked when word starts to spread that she and her friends–Krystal, Akil, and Alexander–are the prime suspects, thanks to the Proctor, someone anonymously incriminating them via the school’s social media app. They all used to be Jamie’s closest friends, and she knew each of their deepest, darkest secrets. Now, somehow the Proctor knows them, too. The four must uncover the true killer before The Proctor exposes more than they can bear and costs them more than they can afford, like Nancy’s full scholarship. Soon, Nancy suspects that her friends may be keeping secrets from her, too. Katie Zhao’s YA debut is an edge-of-your-seat drama set in the pressure-cooker world of academics and image at Sinclair Prep, where the past threatens the future these teens have carefully crafted for themselves. How We Fall Apart is the irresistible, addicting, Asian-American recast of Gossip Girl that we’ve all been waiting for.

Rating: 3.5/5

It was refreshing to read a book about high schoolers that are Asian American! As an adult, I can’t help but be jealous of the diversity of books available to kids these days but that’s also not stopping me from reading them as an adult.

Perhaps my expectations were too high for this book because although I loved the cast of characters, I do think the scandals weren’t super ~scandalous~ as far as the comparable titles go– at least not enough to make me gasp, and the ending wasn’t set up to be satisfying. The ending fell so flat. I think the four main characters could have been fleshed out more to develop how and why their secrets would be “life-ruining”, but this may be because it was done in a single book, whereas many of the books this has been compared to are series.

However, there is so much to love about this novel! It captures the pressures of being a child of immigrant parents to succeed academically. If there’s any demographic that I think not only lives but excels in the world of “Dark Academia” it’s Asians and Asian Americans. I hope to see more people of color in this genre and Katie Zhao has gotten us off to a great start. I just hope we get to see the darker side of academia than what this book does. Potentially in a college setting…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to know!

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