Monday, August 17, 2015

YA Review: Pieces of Me

Pieces of Me by Amber Kizer

Published: February 11th, 2014 by Delacorte
Genre: Mostly contemporary YA, with a little bit of a paranormal theme
Binding: ARC
Page Count: Mine is 208 plus a bunch of extras, and goodreads says the finished copy is 304.
Part of a series? No, standalone.
Got via: It was sent to me to review, right around when it was about to come out, and yeah, I suck. At least I only suck worth a year instead of several years? I can't believe a year and change has passed already. At least I can blame school this time!
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): When high school oddball and introvert Jessica Chai is killed in a car accident, her parents decide that Jessica would have wanted her organs donated to those who so desperately need these gifts of life. But Jessica is angry about dying and being dismembered.

Taking the idea of cell memory to the next level, not only do the recipients get pieces of Jessica, but gets pieces of their memories and lives moving forward—she knows what they know and keeps tabs on their growth, recovery, and development. This begins her journey to learn her purpose as she begins to grasp that her ties to these teenagers goes beyond random weirdness. It's through their lives that Jessica learns about herself, as she watches the lives she literally touched continue to interlock.

Review: It is really, really hard to talk about books that emotionally wallop you. Especially in a way that's anyway coherant. If you want me to talk about my broken feels and sobs, then I can do that, but actually wording may take me a minute. As you can tell by the fact that I just used "word" as a verb.

I actually started this one, read about the first chapter, and put it down because I wasn't in the right place emotionally to read this one. I was fine, but I knew after reading that first chapter that I needed a little more sleep and a little less emotional rawness to finish the book. I will say this - the first two or three chapters are almost the heaviest of book. There's a lot that happens in those chapters that is particularly impactful. Most of the rest of the book explores the relationship between the five main characters and those around them, their growth and journeys.

Plot Talk: Jessica is ambushed at school by girls at her school who cut off her hair in the hall without her consent. They give her an invitation to a Halloween party as payoff, essentially, and on the way to the party, Jessica is killed in a car crash. Her organs are donated to several people, but we see four in particular. Samuel, who recieves Jessica's kidneys and pancreas, Vivian, who has cystic fibrosis and is given her heart and lungs, Lief, who gets a tissue and cartilege and stuff to repair a nearly destroyed knee, and Misty, who is the recipient of Jessica's liver.

Over the book, they connect with each other, and Jessica watches over all of them, moving from one to another, but unable to affect them. And that's kind of the deal - I don't want to spoil anything for you.

Characters: Jessica's initial chapters while she's alive are stifling. The haircut - which I really appreciate that it's treated like the assault that it is - is shocking, and uncomfortable. Her interactions with her mother, especially, are heavy, like they press down on you as you read them. Those chapters are almost exhausting. Funnily enough, after she dies, things get somewhat lighter. Jessica, while dealing with some of her own "hey, I'm dead" issues, is more of a passive observer to the others. The connection of her "pieces" in them allows her to understand what they're thinking and feeling, which makes her a very interesting narrator, without limiting what she should be able to know. Once you get used to that premise, it works well.

There were other donations made from Jessica's body, but we only follow the four I mentioned. All are linked to Jessica in some way, and I like finding out the different ways. Each is unique in their journey, what they need to learn and experience, and also their thoughts on their transplants. I really enjoyed seeing how they connected, almost like a spiderweb of connections.

Due to having five main characters, the cast is fairly large, but even the smaller side characters were good. They were vibrant, and well-rounded, despite many of them not having a ton of "screen"time. The writing is very strong when it comes to that aspect, to make so many characters be so unique in a book that is not that long, comparatively. The parents, especially, and their relationships with their children, each had different issues and nuances. It's very strong characterization and character writing.

PG-13 stuff: I like how on ARCs they sometimes put the recommended age on it. This one says 12 and up, and frankly I think that'd be fine. I didn't notice much for language, really, or drinking, or sex, or any of those things that people get worked up about. The subject matter of death is obviously emotionally heavy, so that's what you need to think about, but I think a mature reader of that age range would be fine.

Cons, complaints, bad stuff, etc.: I didn't like the bashing of popular, conventionally pretty girls. You know, thin, blonde, popular, pretty, fashionable. Girls like that obviously do have more privilege than many other people, but living up to social expectations isn't easy, and there is often a tremendous amount of pressure on them. In this society, it's not easy to be a girl in any shape or form, and I really dislike when books do the "you're not like other girls" thing. Girls don't deserve this treatment, no matter how popular they are.

Cover comments: I like it. It's very pretty. I LOVE the lettering. The kind of broken, splotchiness of it is really cool. But, and maybe this is because I've been reading a lot of 80s/90s books which often have covers that are very representative of something that happens in the book, but it kind of bothers me that Jessica is shown barely mid-back length hair, when either she should have hair that's very, very long, down around her hips, or pixie-cut. But it is a very pretty cover, if a little bland, and not exactly original.

Conclusion: While I had really busy year, I'm kind of sad I put this off for so long. I am glad that I was able to give it the time it deserved, and to be in the right place emotionally to read it. The characters were wonderful, I liked the premise, and the ending made me all sniffly. I really enjoyed this one, and I'm glad I finally got around to reading it. Highly recommend this one, and I give it four out of five roses.



Other notes:

- I watched Dead Like Me recently and some of this kind of reminded me of that. Probably just because I did just watch it. But if you're a fan of that, or If I Stay, or either of them, you might enjoy this.

That's about it, I think. Have you guys read this one? What did you think?

Peace and cookies,
Laina

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