Book: Pieces of Me
Author: Amber Kizer
Age Range: 12 and up
I very much enjoyed Amber Kizer's post-apocalyptic survival story A Matter of Days. In Pieces of Me she takes on a very different topic. Pieces of Me is about a high school girl named Jessica who finds her life connected with those of four other teenagers, after a terrible accident.
Stop here if you prefer to know nothing about a book, because I can't discuss this book without telling you what it's about. The truth is strongly hinted at by the title and jacket copy, and becomes clear quite early in the book anyway.
So what happens is that Jessica, who always felt more or less invisible in high school, ends up brain dead in a car crash. Her various organs are donated and transplanted into the bodies of four other teens, three of them local and one from another state. Jessica's consciousness remains tied to these four teens, and in alternating chapters we hear her thoughts on their continued experiences (though she is not able to communicate with them). Eventually, the threads of Jessica that connect these teens bring them together.
I found this to be an interesting premise. The alternating chapters lend a certain suspense to the story, and seeing the characters (eventually) as they see one another helps to give a clear view. There's a fairly overt pro-organ donation message to this book, which is addressed directly in an author's note at the end. There's also a fair bit of detail about what it's like to have a chronic, life-threatening illness such as cystic fibrosis. This is a book that I do think will expand readers' perspectives, giving them a look into the lives of people whose problems may be bigger than their own.
However, as a reader, I personally had trouble with the viewpoint. Each chapter is kind of a mix of Jessica's viewpoint and that of whichever other kid she is inhabiting (or however you would put it). These sections are in limited third person perspective, from each teen's viewpoint, but then Jessica's thoughts are there, too, sometimes. This is probably deliberate, showing how Jessica's consciousness is becoming intertwined with her organ recipients. But I had trouble wrapping my head around it, and tell what thoughts were from Jessica and what were from Samuel, Vivian, Leif, and Misty. Like this:
"The more time we spent here, the more I felt the humble and special appeal it held for Misty. There was peace here. Answers.... Dropping her backpack on the ground, she slid into a massive leather armchair that was surprisingly comfortable." (Page 61, at the library).
Does Jessica know that Misty is comfortable, and she's telling us? Or is it Misty telling us? Probably this is nit-picking, but thinking things like this kept taking me out of the book. There are also some IM exchanges between the (living) kids, full of abbreviations, that I found hard going, though the target teen audience will probably enjoy them.
I did find the end of the book moving, and Pieces of Me definitely made me think. I probably would have found the premise irresistible when I was a teenager, and I do think that teens today will enjoy it, too. The protagonists are all sympathetic, and quite varied, giving a wide range of readers someone to root for. There's a modern feel to the text, too, with message boards, blogs, and of course hospitals. All in all, I think that Piece of Me is well worth a look by librarians who serve teens, even though it didn't quite work for me personally.
Publisher: Delacorte Press (@RandomHouseKids)
Publication Date: February 11, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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