Rebecca McQuilten has just moved with her parents from Dunedin, a small town in New Zealand, to the city of Auckland. She doesn’t know many people, will have to start at a new school, and is worried about how she will be judged by the other kids with her ginger hair and love for literature- especially poetry.
Lonely, but trying to fit in, she attends a party with a girl that she knows, hoping to make some new friends before the school year begins. But some out-of-character drinking finds Rebecca in a terrible predicament that tarnishes her life forever. Unable to tell anyone what happened- out of fear and shame- she bottles up her feelings, only able to release her pain through the use of a blade…
Everything changes when she meets Cory Marshall, however. Literally the boy next door, he is a year older, extremely hot, and even more enthusiastic about literature than she is. Taking her under his wing, Rebecca starts to change- she becomes more outgoing, changes her look and makes new friends. She reads more of the classics, starts to write poetry again, and stops self-harming.
But even though Cory has a gregarious personality on the outside, inside he is torn- holding some secrets which he finds difficult to cope with. As the relationship between Rebecca and Cory grows, she starts to see some troubling signs emerge, and, coupled with her own problems, these issues start to develop until both are swamped under, with seemingly no way out. Rebecca and Cory soon start to spiral down a winding path fraught with demons, but will they be able to save themselves and each other?
This is an interesting teen novel by award-winning author Eileen Merriman, which deals with many issues regarding belonging, acceptance, consent, peer group pressure and love. The author is able to get into the heads of her 15 and 16-year-old characters-portraying them realistically without resorting too much to stereotype. She is able to capture the mood swings, self-consciousness and other behaviours of her teenage characters, while still pushing the story forward. Some of the characters, like Cory’s friend Winston, as well as his twin brothers, help to relieve some of the angst in the novel, and references to classic literature highlight the expectations for each chapter and the shared interests of the main characters.
Pieces of You does not cover any new ground in terms of story-telling- I have read many books with a similar storyline- but it is still a confronting read. You will most likely feel for Rebecca and Cory as they try to cope with their problems- struggling with the universal issues of anxiety and self-doubt. Also be aware that the ending of this novel is somewhat distressing. But, as a result, the negative impacts from the events that occur broaden into a learning experience, and an ability to show acceptance for some of the things that have happened. This, along with the romance and hard-hitting themes, make this novel into something well-worth reading for lovers of teen fiction.