Pieces of You by Eileen Merriman
Pieces of You is a page-turning and compelling young adult novel that I hope every teenager, and their parents, will read. Fifteen-year-old Rebecca McQuilten moves with her parents from Dunedin to Auckland. She desperately misses her old friends and feels very lonely. When she accepts an invitation to a party in an attempt to fit in, she feels even more lonely. And when she leaves the party early, things go from bad to much worse. It’s only when she meets her outgoing sixteen-year-old next door neighbour, Cory Marshall, that she can begin piecing her life back together again – before the unthinkable happens.
This is a novel that sets the bar very high. Eileen has the right amount of teenage angst and emotion, while at the same time exploring some very difficult topics in a very sensitive way. Through her main characters, Rebecca and Corey, the author examines low self-esteem, self-harm, rape, teenage mental health, and suicide. But she does it in a way that gently sheds light on these subject matters, and shows how people can find better ways of coping with some of the serious things that can happen in life, through opening up to other people: friends, parents, and therapists.
Don’t be fearful that this is a novel that is too heavy, however. There are some moments that may make you cry – and certainly, the climax of the book is heart-wrenching – but there are many enjoyable moments along the way, and I particularly liked Rebecca and Cory’s love of poetry and literature, something that permeates the novel. This is a superb novel with wonderful characterisation at its core, and even if the storyline is hard to read as a plot, it also has a sense of hope. It was wonderful to read this debut novel by this talented New Zealand writer. I certainly look forward to future books from her.