Thursday, March 8, 2012

Review: Pieces of Us by Margie Gelbwasser

Paperback: 336
Release Date: March 8, 2012
Publisher: Flux
Author Info: Website | Twitter
Pre-Order the Book: Amazon
Add It: Goodreads | Shelfari
Two families. Four teens. A summer full of secrets.

Every summer, hidden away in a lakeside community in upstate New York, four teens leave behind their old identities…and escape from their everyday lives.

Yet back in Philadelphia during the school year, Alex cannot suppress his anger at his father (who killed himself), his mother (whom he blames for it), and the girls who give it up too easily. His younger brother, Kyle, is angry too—at his abusive brother, and at their mother who doesn’t seem to care. Meanwhile, in suburban New Jersey, Katie plays the role of Miss Perfect while trying to forget the nightmare that changed her life. But Julie, her younger sister, sees Katie only as everything she’s not. And their mother will never let Julie forget it.

Up at the lake, they can be anything, anyone. Free. But then Katie’s secret gets out, forcing each of them to face reality—before it tears them to pieces.
Let me start this off in the right manner. I found this book very INTERESTING. That meaning, that I didn’t particularly enjoy this book. It was kind of like a strange cross between reading a textbook in your favorite subject and rape porn. Don’t even begin to ask me how I came to that conclusion, but it took a lot of staring blankly at the wall.

I picked this book because of the premise (don’t we all?) and knew that it was going to be one of those hard contemporaries. I was not, in the slightest, prepared for exactly how hard. Within the first 40 pages we are introduced to deep-seeded misogyny and what is essentially a rape scene (no matter how non-graphically it’s played off). And, kids, it just keeps going from there.

Out of the four characters that guide this story, two are slightly redeemable characters, the other two are just little psycho killers in the making. First there’s Katie. Little, vapid Katie, who is kind of annoyingly naive and doesn’t improve much. And her younger sister Julie, who brassy and ballsy and at first I kind of liked, before her deep faults became overbearingly clear too. And then there’s Kyle, whose entire narrative is in the second person, which demands some intrigue if nothing else. And then lastly, there is Alex (Kyle’s older brother). Alex is... neurotic? Maybe neurotic at best. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a character so horrifying and despicable and I’ve read books with actual serial killers as the main character. If these characters were real humans, therapists would be drooling and fighting with each other over them, cause you could retire in the Bahamas on these headcases.

This book is a very, very, very adult for the “Young Adult” category. If you want a book to go on a picnic with, this isn’t that. This book made me feel raw. Raw like a layer of skin was being ripped off and leaving me vulnerable, open, sad and a smidge dirty (but not in the sexual sense - in the physically dirty way). Take that remark as you will.

So now you are sitting there thinking, “Well, Jennifer, that was lovely and all, but don’t you usually do a fan-girl freakout over all the books you review? I see no fan-girling here.” Right you are, dear reader. So now I will tell you EXACTLY why I absolutely HAD to review this book; even with the horrid characters and the raw, unyielding story, I was 100% completely and utterly COMPELLED to keep reading. I’m not saying I didn’t take breaks, of course I did, but I COULDN’T NOT finish it. I had to see what the end was. Not a spoiler - but just like the rest of the book, don’t expect a parade of rainbows as the conclusion. I’d say it was about as hopeful as it was realistically bleak.

Rating: 4/5

-Reviewed by Jennifer


  1. gr8 review
    i can't wait to read her debut
    i rated pieces of us  a 4.5/5

  2. This is the second review I've read that makes want to both skip the book altogether and begin reading it immediately. I'm very intrigued about this book, but I don't know if I can get past the Murphy's law of awfulness/really unlikable characters. We'll see, but I appreciate the honest review! 

  3. Great review which captures this one perfectly - like you, I was compelled to finish reading it although I definitely wouldn't say it was enjoyable. I started off really liking Julie but as you said, she changes rather a lot. A little bird tells me that Margie Gelbwasser's next isn't as dark!

  4. I just started it (page 36) and I'm feeling exactly the same way so far. Also, is it me or are the descriptions of Katie's high school experiences as "Pyramid Girl" (?!) completely outlandish? 

  5. I've read a few books that have made me feel like this. Sort of sick to my stomach yet compelled to keep reading.
    I'm sure some people will love it for the raw intensity but I think this isn't a book for me. Thanks for being honest in your review.