Reviewed by Jennifer Jensen

Sisters Julie and Katie and brothers Alex and Kyle look forward to every summer when they can leave their troubled lives behind and reinvent themselves as entirely new people. In New Jersey, Katie is the girl who has everything, until a lapse in judgment destroys everything. Julie is her younger sister who lives in her shadow, jealous of the attention Katie receives and oblivious to Katie’s pain. In Pennsylvania, Alex is angry and bitter, and abuses his younger brother and the females in his life (of which there are many). Kyle merely exists. The summer lake house and Alex’s arms are the only place that Katie feels safe, until the secrets she has been keeping follow her there, too.

Pieces of Us by Maggie Gelbwasser was a difficult read, not only due to the inner turmoil of its characters, but also because of the content. Nearly every chapter contains raw and piercing sexual situations in one form or another, and I could only tolerate so much of it. Though I did manage to read from beginning to end, I encountered several passages that were so disturbing to me that I wanted nothing more than to quit.

Often one might see readers complaining that an author “tells” rather than “shows”; in this particular instance, I’d have preferred more telling and less showing. I felt brutally beaten over the head with each new scene involving violent sexual acts or commentary. Pieces of Us is intended for a YA audience, but I think it takes things way too far. I wouldn’t be comfortable with any of my teenage relatives or friends reading this book and just can’t recommend it.

Pieces of Us will have readers that find value in it, but I’m most certainly not one of them. If there was any point that Gelbwasser was hoping to make with this daring novel, I missed it entirely. I’d have given it more consideration if the characters had not been so loathsome or pathetic, and if the shock value scenes had not overshadowed themes that were not developed as wonderfully as they could have been.

Rating: ★½☆☆☆ 

Jennifer graduated from the University of Utah with a BA in English. She occasionally dabbles with her own fiction writing, particularly with the Young Adult and Paranormal genres. She currently resides in Utah with her husband and daughter.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by JKS Communications. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.