*I received a copy from the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*
When top-ranking student Jamie Ruan is found dead, her former friends are shocked to the core. This is even more so when the blame is placed on them via their school’s social media app. The so-called Proctor anonymously incriminates them as they slowly reveal the secrets of students Nancy, Krystal, Akil and Alexander, who were all once Jamie’s closest friends. Jamie knew all their secrets, and now The Proctor does too. And they must figure out the truth because it all falls apart.
The story begins with Nancy presenting to her school; when Jamie fails to make it, she thinks nothing of her ex-friend’s no show. Having abandoned the friendship months before in light of her father’s scandal, Nancy finally thinks she can take the spot that Jamie once held over her.
That is until a threatening message to Jamie appears on the board, which triggers the beginning of the end for them all. Jamie is dead, and the finger is pointing at Jamie’s old friends. Nancy, a scholarship kid, practically grew up in the shadow of Jamie. Krystal and Akil are born from money, but they can’t hide their secrets. While Alexander is another scholarship student whose brother’s expulsion years ago haunts him to this day. Each has a secret Jamie knew, and now the Proctor is revealing them one by one, damning them all to expulsion and throwing them to the wolves.
The story, in concept, is rather intriguing. Think Pretty Little Liars meets Gossip Girl. A group of kids work together to figure out who is behind the messages before their reputation is ruined. But the story is extremely rushed, and the lack of development in any of the characters will leave you feeling sorely disappointed. Slowly, the secrets of each of the main protagonists are revealed. The consequences of their actions are rushed, and you don’t get to feel the impact of everything that happens. Something drastic happens, and the story moves on without ruminating on its effect.
The story also has a bad habit of withholding information in a poorly executed way. There was little originality in this tale, and the so-called finale was like the final nail in the coffin for me. A good mystery will immerse the reader and propel them further, so when the identity is revealed, it should be a shock and make sense to the reader. The ending didn’t make sense, the culprit felt like it was plucked out of nowhere, and now that I’ve had time to think about it, it was pretty hilarious how ridiculous this entire book was.
When I slowly began to realise the plot wasn’t working for me, I was somewhat holding onto the characters, hoping they would carry the story on, but it felt like I was reading a story that wasn’t quite complete. It doesn’t read like a draft, but it doesn’t feel like a polished story. Nancy made sense, plot-wise, to be the main protagonist, but she was the most insufferable in this story. I felt for her initially, growing up in a low-income family, feeling like you need to make your family proud, despite the obstacles in front of you. But she is rather cruel, thinking she’s above the rich kids like Jamie, without realising she’s a terrible person as well. Each character felt archetypal, almost like figurines of what the authors wanted them to stand for, but they don’t have a distinct voice, nor do they feel compelling enough to feel engaged in their journey.
Overall, How We Fall Apart promises a lot but fails to play the part. I’ve been disappointed a lot reading books that I’ve personally been hyped to read, but How We Fall Apart is one of those reads that it pains me to say that I would not recommend this book to anyone. While having a promising concept, this release fails to capture the rush of a thriller nor the essence of dark academia. Everything you are promised is deflated and, honestly, relatively lacklustre.