Book Reviews

Review: How We Fall Apart by Katie Zhao

So what you’re telling me is one of my favorite authors wrote a dark academia thriller? I am sold! I’m living for all the academia thrillers I’ve been reading lately. Seriously, I’ll take 500 more and make them diverse please! Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts!


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.


(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

TW: abuse, self-harm, parental neglect, panic attacks, drug use, racism, suicidal thoughts, inappropriate relationship between student/teacher

What I loved about How We Fall Apart, or one of the things I loved, was the ways Zhao connects the pressures of academia and success with Nancy’s upbringing. How it explains the ways Nancy feels like she must always succeed because it isn’t only about her future, but about her past. And Zhao extends this character development and backstories to so many of the other side characters. It lends How We Fall Apart a grounded feeling. And begins to tackle important conversations about mental health and drive.

How We Fall Apart is full of secrets, hidden thoughts that are brought to the surface. Zhao examines the privilege differences between Nancy and her peers, the microaggressions against her, and how she feels out of place almost everywhere. Being grounded in Nancy’s POV adds an element of uncertainty as readers, as we aren’t sure whether the blanks are full of complicity or innocence. How We Fall Apart is entirely immersive. It was so difficult to stop reading at the end of the night!


In many ways, How We Fall Apart is about the images we show people, the world, and our friends. It’s about the cracks in our own facades, in friendships, and shadows in the night. Who holds the secrets and keys to our downfall? How We Fall Apart explores the desperation of ambition, our family’s pursuit of success, and how it can be dangerous to our mental health and relationships.

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Find How We Fall Apart on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, & The Book Depository.


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