Girl in Pieces
From debut author Kathleen Glasgow comes GIRL IN PIECES, an unflinching look at the life of a young girl and the numerous issues she faces as a teen, both with others and herself.
Although she is only 17 years old, Charlotte Davis has faced her share --- and probably a whole town’s share --- of trauma. For years, she and her widowed mother have been at odds with one another and prone to violent outbursts, but when her very best friend attempts to commit suicide, that is the last straw. Charlotte, already a self-injurer, seeks comfort in the streets, risky relationships and, of course, her beloved shards of glass. At the start of GIRL IN PIECES, Charlotte is recovering from her worst bout of self-injury yet, one that very nearly killed her and landed her in a treatment center with other struggling girls.
"Glasgow’s raw, passionate prose brings Charlotte to life, elevating GIRL IN PIECES from your typical YA “issue” book to the strong, expertly-written piece of literature it is."
Broken down by life and her own brand of assault, Charlotte begins her story as a mute. Although the narrative is dense and fully fleshed-out, Glasgow keeps her chapters short during this segment --- pieces, if you will. Readers watch as Charlotte struggles to come out of her shell and speak about what has happened to her, but this is not an ordinary “issue” book. Instead, Glasgow begs readers to see Charlotte in her entirety, with all of her scars, secrets and taut emotions --- especially when she is unable to describe them herself. She does not present Charlotte as an angst-ridden cutter, but rather a girl who has been filled with so many horrible memories and emotions and so few coping mechanisms that she can see no way out but to cut.
Soon Charlotte finds her voice, but her progress acts as a double-edged sword, as responding to treatment means that she will be sent home to her mother and her dangerous life of drugs, alcohol and bad decisions. Fortunately, she has a few friends on the outside and one, Mikey, approaches her mother with a plan to take Charlotte away from her past and into his new, sober life in Tucson, Arizona. As a reader, it is painful to see how easily Charlotte’s mother can allow herself to be separated from her daughter, but the hope that Charlotte’s future will be better propels the narrative without bringing down the tone too much.
When Charlotte arrives in Tucson, she is alone for probably the first time in her life, but she promises herself that she will follow her doctor’s orders and refrain from self-injuring. In an uplifting turn of events, she even finds work and a place of her own. The next step in any young adult novel is, of course, love, and this is where Charlotte’s progress gets hairy. Like any teenage girl, she dreams of being “rescued” by Mikey, since he has gone to such great lengths to bring her to Tucson and care for her. Of course, Mikey has his own life and, while he desperately wants to help Charlotte, he is unwilling to get wrapped up in their shared past --- particularly the love triangle they shared with Charlotte’s former best friend. Instead she sets her sights on Riley, a pseudo-rock star who works with her at her job. Older readers will easily spot Riley’s inconsistencies and flaws, but to Charlotte, he is just a person who does not balk at her scars and treats her like a human.
Charlotte and Riley’s relationship is initially heartwarming. He clearly cares for her and makes her feel like she could be loved again, even though her body is covered in “ugly” scars. Still, there is no foundation in their bond: Riley’s constant refusals to talk about his past and inabilities to ask about hers make their relationship extremely one-sided and ungrounded. Soon, Charlotte will be forced to decide if she can finally put herself first and accept the love that so many people have tried to show her.
What follows is a wild ride through romance, addiction, identity and, of course, love. As Charlotte strays further and further from her days as a frequent self-injurer, readers will be horrified to learn that she has only replaced her vice with something just as dangerous. Throughout it all, Glasgow’s raw, passionate prose brings Charlotte to life, elevating GIRL IN PIECES from your typical YA “issue” book to the strong, expertly-written piece of literature it is. This is not an easy read by any means, but it is one that will stay with you for days after you finish it and it is possibly one of the most important YA books published this year.
Glasgow is bursting with talent and her willingness to share a story so dark and so full of pain speaks volumes to her potential. I cannot wait to see what she writes next.
Reviewed by Audrey Slater on August 30, 2016