06 March 2012

Review: Pieces of Us by Maggie Gelbwasser

Title: Pieces of Us
Author: Maggie Gelbwasser
Published: 8th March 2012
Publisher: Flux
Source: eArc thanks to NetGalley and Flux

Two families. Four teens.
A summer full of secrets.

Every summer, hidden away in a lakeside community in upstate New York, four teens leave behind their old identities…and escape from their everyday lives.

Yet back in Philadelphia during the school year, Alex cannot suppress his anger at his father (who killed himself), his mother (whom he blames for it), and the girls who give it up too easily. His younger brother, Kyle, is angry too—at his abusive brother, and at their mother who doesn’t seem to care. Meanwhile, in suburban New Jersey, Katie plays the role of Miss Perfect while trying to forget the nightmare that changed her life. But Julie, her younger sister, sees Katie only as everything she’s not. And their mother will never let Julie forget it.

Up at the lake, they can be anything, anyone. Free. But then Katie’s secret gets out, forcing each of them to face reality—before it tears them to pieces. - From Goodreads

This book was nothing that I was expecting. From the description what I was expecting was a book about four broken teens coming together over the summer, but what I got was a book that was far more sinister. This book was a brutal look at abuse and "victims" set over the period of a year.

Katie and Julia are sisters and Katie is the star, at home and at school. Julia can't compete for her mother's love with Katie, the star cheerleader "The Pyramid Girl". Alex and Kyle's father killed himself after finding out that their mother was having an affair. During the summer Katie, Julia, Kyle and Alex all meet at their Russian Grandparent's summer houses and they have the chance to leave their normal selves behind to become Katya, Yulya, Sasha and Kostya. In the past summer and school lives have always been kept separate but soon the worlds begin to bleed together. As secrets get revealed the lives for the four of them change in ways that mean they will never be the same again.

I hit a barrier with this book almost immediately with the writing style. This book is written from the perspective of all four of the major characters. Often this can enhance the flow of a story giving the reader the opportunity to experience different perspectives. In this instance we were able to see parts of the story from different viewpoints, but I felt like switching narrator interrupted the flow of the story dragging us away from what was going on. My other issue with this was that 3 of the character's stories were written in the first person and Kyle's was written in the second person. I found this was like running into a brick wall every time I came across one of his chapters. This style was used for Kyle as he himself does not want to admit how much he is suffering, but for me the change in perspective was off putting.

It is very difficult to talk about this book without giving away too many of the plot points as they are littered through the book and spring upon you like they were laying in wait for you to get over the previous shock. I can however talk about the characters in this book. I disliked Katie at the start of the book finding her shallow, superficial and oblivious to her sister's pain. However as Katie evolved through the book and her pain she became a tragic character who became consumed with her own problems. On the other side of this we have poor ignored Julia who just wants her mother's love and approval. However as Julia starts to get some attention she becomes a cold and heartless person I had no time for.

Another character I had no time for during the whole book was Alex. I hated the way he spoke about women. He was full of hate and this pored onto the page making his chapters uncomfortable to read. We also can see that the hate that is in Alex waiting to explode manages to seep out of him every so often in sadistic ways. I could find nothing redeeming within Alex and nothing that made me think I would ever want to spend any time with him. Again Kyle for me was on the other side of this, as much as I hated how his chapters were written, he was possibly the character that I liked the most. He was broken even at the start of the book but there was a sweetness and a naivety to him that made him seem younger than he was.

I did not enjoy reading this book as the subject matter to me was very raw and brutal. Where I can see that this book tackles these issues with a sense of purpose and delivers them up with some style and grace, it was not my cup of tea. I found it a disturbing book and personally I like a little less reality and pain with my reading.

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