Monday, 26 June 2017

Pieces of You by Eileen Merriman: Book Review

Wise, tough, heart-breaking, funny, this compulsive love story is about facing your demons.

Fifteen-year-old Rebecca McQuilten moves with her parents to a new city. Lonely but trying to fit in, she goes to a party, but that’s when things really fall apart. 

I couldn’t tell anyone what had happened. Especially since I was the new girl in town. Who would want to believe me?

Things look up when she meets gregarious sixteen-year-old Cory Marshall.

‘You’re funny, Becs,’ Cory said.
‘You have no idea,’ I said, and clearly he didn’t, but I was smiling anyway.
And after that, he was all I could think about.

Cory helps Rebecca believe in herself and piece her life back together; but that’s before he shatters it all over again . . .


I was lucky enough to be one of the few people who received an early copy of Pieces of You along with a box filled with related goodies inside, all thanks to Penguin Random House New Zealand. I was so excited that I took a bunch of photos of everything and posted them on Snapchat. This book was nothing but a brilliant piece of young adult literature and I am so glad that I was able to have the chance to read something that brought a fraction of my teenage reality to life. I've never come across a novel that has been able to pin point specific issues that teenagers struggle with every day and has been able to resolve it in a way that doesn't leave you feeling frustrated and ripped off. I'd like to personally award Eileen Merriman for writing the most accurate and unbelievably heartfelt young adult debut EVER!

Pieces of You has to be one of the most important young adult novels ever written because it shines a light on depression, self harm, rape, and grief - a few of the many things that can bring a person to their death if not dealt with sooner than later, and that's exactly what this book entails. Rebecca 'Becs' McQuilten is a fifteen-year-old girl who is forced to move to Auckland from her South Island hometown of Dunedin where she struggles to fit in with her peers. Like many young girls, Becs feels self-conscious about her appearance and struggles with adjusting to her new life where winters are unbearably cold with no snow and being the new girl in a big city is just as bad as moving to a tiny one. I absolutely loved this book with a passion, despite having to put it down many times because of university work. Much of the content reminded me of personal matters I had to deal with during my teenage years, including depression and self-harm, although I used the nail-digging method rather than a blade but I had friends who did and felt exactly the same as Becs. This became almost too much at times because it reminded me of the countless nights where I would worry for hours, staying up texting, trying to make sure my friend wouldn't take their own life. In a way, Becs is the beacon of light that many teenagers might need to relate to and I am so grateful for that. My only worry is that this book may be somewhat of a trigger to those who have cut themselves and I firmly suggest preparing yourselves for a few hard-to-cope-with scenes - I personally had to put the book down during the very top of page 166 because it had hit me a little too hard with the imagery. It hasn't triggered me to self-harm again but it might for others so please be careful.

Here are a list of pages that may be triggering: 22, 35, 44, 94, 165 & 166.

"Nothing compares to kissing the boy you've fallen in love with. Nothing."

One thing I loved was that there were so many times that actual places in New Zealand were mentioned and Maori language was used as well. The Marshall's beach house in Cooper's Beach, Kaitaia, and the Four Square (a mini supermarket which is placed in almost every city and small town of NZ). Being quite connected with the rest of the world and having knowledge about Maori words and traditions, I realised that the book did not have a glossary at the back for those that may not know what some of the words were. I personally was so excited to see them included but I realised that my friends around the world who will probably want to read this book might need a little help with the language so I've taken it upon myself to write a small glossary here so that everyone can refer to it when they read it.

Maori translated to English:

Kia ora: Hello, thank you
Kia kaha: Be strong
Hongi: A Maori tradition where two individuals will press their noses and foreheads together as a greeting (this word was not mentioned but I noticed this happened on page 238 - your welcome!)
Ngai Takoto: A Maori iwi from Northland, New Zealand
Iwi: Tribe

I think the most beautiful thing about Pieces of You is how real and intense the relationship that Becs had with Cory Marshall. Despite having many inner demons, she opens up to him through their mutual love of literature. Their relationship isn't forced like many in other YA novels, it falls together piece by piece and is glued tight with trust and hope. Cory is the type of male that every girl wishes she'd find - a guy who loves reading and writes poems to illustrate the beauty and darkness of the life around him. Without giving too much away, Pieces of You does an amazing job of showing how someone can struggle so much with their own problems that sometimes it blinds them to the suffering of others. I love that this book did not end on a sour note or made out to be a perfectly happy ending, because real life doesn't work that way and depression and grief needs to be tended to over time, not just fixed with a magical pill or potion.

I have chosen to give this book a 5 out of 5 stars for it's ice-breaking reality and beautifully told story that might help inspire many teenagers around the world to see that there is so much more on the other side of the blinding mountain. It is well deserved and I think that this is probably the only book I've read that has really shown what it is like to live as a modern day teenager in the suburbs of Auckland (damn the fact that we don't get snow!). I would recommend to everyone because this is a story that the world needs to read, no matter the location - this is the story that will hopefully help change lives. We all need more heroines like Rebecca McQuilten!

Thank you Penguin Random House NZ for the review copy!
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