Written by: Kathleen Glasgow
Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Genre: Young Adult
Charlotte Davis is in pieces. At seventeen she’s already lost more than most people lose in a lifetime. But she’s learned how to forget. The broken glass washes away the sorrow until there is nothing but calm. You don’t have to think about your father and the river. Your best friend, who is gone forever. Or your mother, who has nothing left to give you.
Every new scar hardens Charlie’s heart just a little more, yet it still hurts so much. It hurts enough to not care anymore, which is sometimes what has to happen before you can find your way back from the edge.
“Everyone has that moment I think, the moment when something so momentous happens that it rips your very being into small pieces. And then you have to stop. For a long time, you gather your pieces. And it takes such a very long time, not to fit them back together, but to assemble them in a new way, not necessarily a better way. More, a way you can live with until you know for certain that this piece should go there, and that one there.“
Why am I so drawn to beautifully broken characters? Kara ‘Starbuck’ Thrace is so battle damaged and yet I love her. The same can be said for Jessica Jones, Celeana Sardorthien, Spike, Katniss, Sansa, and so many more. Do I see bits of my former self in them? Do I see hope and redemption? Or am I seriously just messed up?
But when I think about it they are all survivors. Survivors of what they have done to themselves or what has been done to them. They did not break into pieces. They did not shatter and cease to be. They fought. Maybe not at first, but eventually they all did. Maybe that is why I really love them. Survivors. Warriors.
Charlotte Davis has lost everything: her family, her best friend, her home, and her hope. When we first meet her she is lying in the grass in front of a hospital emergency room wrapped up and slowly dying, “I remember the stars that night. They were like salt against the sky, like someone spilled the shaker against very dark cloth. That mattered to me, their accidental beauty.” She thinks this is the end. She thinks this is how she is going to die.
When she wakes up she finds herself at the self-harm ward of Creeley Center, a psychiatric hospital in Minnesota. Here, she can start to recover. Here, she finds people who are like her.
“I room with Louisa. Louisa is older and her hair is like a red-and-gold noisy ocean down her back. There's so much of it, she can't even keep it in with braids or buns or scrunchies. Her hair smells like strawberries; she smells better than any girl I've ever known. I could breathe her in forever.
My first night here, when she lifted her blouse to change for bed, in the moment before that crazy hair fell over her body like a protective cape, I saw them, all of them, and I sucked my breath in hard.
She said, "Don't be scared, little one."
I wasn't scared. I'd just never seen a girl with skin like mine.”
But the road to recovery is hard. Charlie doesn’t know who she is anymore. She is a girl in pieces. So many pieces. Putting the pieces back together is easy when you know what each piece is and where it goes, let alone what it makes when you put everything back together again. After her insurance runs out and her hold is up, Charlie leaves Creeley. But where does she go? Where can she go? Life with her mother is volatile, they both know and understand that.
So she heads to Arizona, after her friend Mikey invites her. He wants to help Charlie, but is on his own road to recovery. Here in a strange, new town miles away from old memories and old habits, Charlie can finally start to pick up the pieces and find out where each one fits.
Things I liked: Girl in Pieces is a rough book. The themes range from depression, self-harm, suicide, alcoholism, addiction, living on the streets, and sexual abuse. It’s about being at your lowest and about recovery and hope. But the road to recovery isn’t always so easy.
So many stories of trauma or recovery ends with a mythological fairytale ending. Its tidy and it is neat. Very few books talk about the journey, and the ups and downs. It’s like CSI where forensic science is done within an hour and everything is so neat and clean. But we know life is not really like that. Healing doesn’t just stop when the bruises fade and the cuts heal. Things don’t magically go away. It will always be a journey. This is why this book is important. This is not to say that you won’t look and feel like a normal human being. You will and I do, but I also know that recovery will always be a part of my life. I will never stop being a survivor and a warrior. This isn’t a bad thing. It is just a thing that ‘is’.
It’s great to see stories that look like you, feel like you, and struggle like you do. Having representation is so important. Having certain narratives equally so. Mental health, addiction, and recovery are still not themes and topics you see too much in popular fiction. The stigma on Mental Health is real, oh so frustratingly real. I say that as someone who worked in mental health and who has sought help with her own mental health. I’m normal. I’m healthy, have a loving mister, and a life I am pretty lucky to have. I also have scars. Some are visible, but many are not.
Of course I connected with Charlie on many levels. How could I not. Her desperate need to start over, to pick up the pieces and start figuring out where each one goes, and what each one means. I still think I am putting myself together and I am fairly normal. Breathe Charlie, just breathe. It’s going to be okay. You will survive this. You will heal. Ugh, how my heart ached for Charlie.
“You can't break my heart, she cries, breathy and furious. You can't own my soul. What I have, I made, what I have is mine. What I have I made, what I have is mine.”
The girl has been through a lot. Charlie’s father killed himself, leaving her alone with a mother who took his death out on her only daughter. Charlie cuts/self-harms to release all of that pain and emotion. It isn’t to seek attention, but the way she copes. A bright spot was her best friend, but she too attempted suicide and was taken from her. So she fled, out into the streets, surviving the best way that she could. When she and her addict friends find a safe place in the Seed House, it is far from the sanctuary that they were hoping for. To stay, Charlie would be pimped out to older men. All of it is too much. So, so much. She cuts, but sometimes those cuts are too deep. So yeah, this is a rough book to read. Its raw, it is dark, and yet it so beautiful. For a debut novel, damn Miss Glasgow….damn.
I also like that Charlie is not always the most likable character. I don’t think she should be. We all have flaws. I will admit that sometimes I found it very different to empathize with her. That many times she was too much of a victim and not a survivor. She made poor choices. She was selfish. She was awash in self-pity. And yet then I remembered how hard it is recover. I was nowhere near where Charlie was and it was hard. But, ultimately Charlie is a survivor. She always has been. She survived her father and her mother, living on the street and being afraid of the dark. She survived the loss of her best friend, of her innocence, and her scars. She embraced each silvery line as I have. They are battlescars. And I remember each battle.
There are other characters that aren’t likable, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the book. Riley is not good But we know that the minute we meet him. The age difference didn’t bug me as much as it did for others (he’s 27, she’s 17 so it is a bit of a big deal). What really bothered me was that he took advantage of someone who was hurting and recovering. She was drowning, trying to break her head up to the surface and he just held her underwater. He’s a man who has been in the recovery phase before. He knows what it is like. And it didn’t matter. That I cannot forgive. The thing is, they both do know that their relationship is unhealthy on a lot of levels. Riley never denies being an addict. Charlie tries not to care. But the thing is, two broken people do not make a whole person.
There is a lot of hope in this book despite the heartbreak. I did like how there was value in artistic expression as a way to process and heal.
Finally, sometimes you read a book that is painful to read and yet so beautiful. Snippets of the book stay with you and linger long after you have read the last page. Girl in Pieces was one of those books for me. More quotes in this book that either resonated or were so gorgeous in the way that they rolled off my tongue or lingered in my mind. It is so beautiful, but it is sharp and the cuts it makes are deep. It is imperfect. There are flaws, but as a whole it was an absolute joy to read.
My favorite quote: “Each aberration of my skin is a song. Press your mouth against me. You will hear so much singing.”
Thank you Kathleen Glasgow.
Things I didn’t like so much: The pacing is slow at times. With all of the horrific things Charlie endured, the slow pace made it even more brutal and hope seems so far away; redemption nearly impossible to imagine. Ack, the heartbreak and the feels. So, so much.
I think there might be too many broken characters. Her father, her best friend, the girls at Creeley, Riley, Ariel, etc. Yes, in a way we’ve all experienced tragedy in one way or another, but the tragedy in these characters define them somehow. It was a bit too much, too forced on occasion. These are minor things and yet they did make it an imperfect novel for me. I think you could still have told Charlie’s story without everyone being so tragic.
Buy or Borrow: Buy. Or at least pick it up from the library. Personally, I would have kept a copy of it at my old office.
Part of: Standalone.
Also Recommended: For similar books I would recommend: Cut by Patricia McCormick, Impulse or Crank by Ellen Hopkins, All the Rage by Courtney Summers, and Girl Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen. You might also like the TV show Recovery Road.
4 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks