I can no longer claim that I'm "not really a reader of young adult books" because 2017 has been a year of branching out, and I'm realizing that I really do like young adult books, even if I am a little picky in this category. Piecing Me Together is a young adult novel unlike any other that I've read, and I didn't just like it, I loved it.
This contemporary fiction novel (just published in February) follows Jade, a high-school junior. She lives in a poor neighborhood in Portland with her strict and hard-working mother and her eccentric young uncle. Jade is constantly feeling like she's in between worlds -- she attends a small private school on scholarship, so her friends at home think she's privileged and her peers at school think she's a charity case. As Jade navigates high school, thoughts about the future, and friendships in both her worlds, she has to discover who she wants to be and how to stand up for herself.
Before I tell you why I loved this book, I want to give a little background. I'm a teacher in an urban district, where many of my student's can related to Jade's struggles with hunger, money, and systematic racism. I saw a reflection of my students in Jade, which had me emotionally invested in her future from the very start of the book. Not only did I love that this book wasn't about romance -- instead, it was about identity (and not identity in relation to any male figures in Jade's life) -- but I also loved that it helped me to gain a better perspective into how my students might feel having a white, privileged teacher when they come from a completely different world. So much of the time, we assume that a teenage girl's priorities are all centered around boys, social media, and the like, but Watson's portrayal reminds us that teenagers are far more sophisticated than we might think- that they do think about social justice, about their futures, about who they want to be and what they want to contribute to the world.
I would love to see this book become a point of discussion for high schoolers (hello, summer reading assignment!) because Jade has to learn how to speak up for herself -- how to name incidents of racism in her life, how to ask others for the truth, and how to tell others what's most important to her. We read this for the Modern Mrs. Darcy book club this month and I absolutely cannot wait to hear everyone's thoughts. One thing I'm trying to do in 2017 is read more literature from diverse authors with more diverse characters. If you have a recommendation, I'd love to hear it.
Bottom-Line Rating: 5/5
Title: Piecing Me Together
Author: Renée Watson
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens, 2017
Price: $10 on Amazon
Source: Public Library