The only way I can read Young Adult fiction is when there is a backbone to the story and the author doesn’t write fluffy, melodramatic, teenage dribble. 34 Pieces of You is far from any of those things. The novel is gritty, captivating, sad and forthright. Carmen Rodrigues touches on issues that no one likes to talk about with teens or even adults in most cases like drugs, sex, depression, sexual preference and much more. I had a best friend like Ellie who met the same fate and really related to this novel in more ways than one.
Sarah is a quiet, unpopular girl who almost becomes friends with the daring, popular Ellie by accident. Ellie and Sarah soon become inseparable, and their fun grows to include drugs and drinking as they get older. What separates this book from the normal teen novel is that the characters are all well developed and complex, while still remaining teenagers. There is no blind eye turned in 34 Pieces of You. Family lives are dissected, personal relationships are endured and destroyed, and tiny details are noted that make you feel as if you are standing in the living room of the house described, watching someone unfold and fall apart.
The quiet additions of Jake, Ellie’s brother and Jess, Sarah’s little sister, provide to be thoughtful foils to the volatile Ellie and willing participant Sarah. The way that Rodrigues alternates viewpoints and chapters between some of the main players of the book provides more detail to events than a single viewpoint would. Essentially, what one character does not want to talk about, another is ready and waiting to discuss. Ellie’s thoughts come in only through the chapter breaks, which are represented by the 34 little pieces of paper discovered in a box under her bed. Ellie is tragic and complex, yet these scraps and the words of her friends make her endearing and sympathetic, albeit, severely messed up.
34 Pieces of You is a quick read that will stay with you and will leave you wanting more details in a good way. I’m not sure if the novel was set up for a sequel, but Rodrigues certainly has enough material to create one. I would have liked to see a bit more of not only where the characters end up, but how they are handling their lives after Ellie.
Lauren Cannavino is a graduate student, freelance writer, wine lover, and avid reader. Random musings can be found over at www.goldiesays.com.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Simon Pulse. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.