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.
Review: Holy bananas. Pieces of Us can be described using those two words. Why? First off, it's the kind of book that makes you want to write better. Gelbwasser gives us four narrators--three who speak in first person POV, and one who speaks in second person POV. Thankfully, each voice is distinctive (my personal favorite was the second person POV; it heightens how detached the narrator feels to what happens around them). Gelbwasser did a flawless job at crafting characters that both complement and conflict with each other. Her novel is practically a crash course in voice, and how it can push the plot forward. Although it was difficult for me to enjoy all her narrators, Gelbwasser never let me forget how important it is to add depth and resonance to an unlikeable character. If you remove even one of her narrators, Pieces of Us just wouldn't be as powerful to me.
Another reason why this novel works for me is because of the actual plot. Some things are hard to stomach, to be honest. Others are so, so beautiful and sweet and wow. But all of it is written in such a way that you have to keep reading (that is, if you're comfortable reading novels with topics on the heavy side). There's this unshakeable sense of dread, that something MAJOR and MESSED UP will happen at any second (especially when it comes to Katie's secret, which the book blurb alludes to). It takes a skilled writer to make me flip the pages when all I want to do is cry. And, oh boy, did I cry. Very few novels have made me bawl my eyes out, but Pieces of Us achieved it, folks. With clear, straightforward prose that's filled with magic.
No, it's not a novel for everyone. But if you're a fan of contemporary YA, particularly of Courtney Summers and/or Nina LaCour, this is your book.
Make sure to get your copy of Pieces of Us, which is on sale now!