Kathleen Glasgow, Girl in Pieces, HarperCollins Australia, 1 Oct 2016, 416pp., $19.99 (pbk), ISBN: 9781460751053
Charlie Davis wants to fit the pieces of herself together but she can’t. There’s been too much pain and sorrow in her life. Instead, relief is a sharp slice. This story follows Charlie as she stumbles along the path to recovery.
Girl in Pieces is for older teens, aged 15 and over. It is packed with triggers. It deals with sex, drug abuse, self-harm, alcohol, explicit language, domestic abuse, sexual abuse, and suicide. Though the themes are dark, the story is not depressing or bleak. We don’t feel sympathy for Charlie, we feel something far more powerful – a fragment of understanding. We see how her traumatic and emotionally suppressed childhood has shaped her into a blade of pain. As the reader, we stand by Charlie’s side. We quietly hold her hand as she restitches the scars crisscrossing her life and works to make herself into someone anew.
Told in first person narrative, Charlie’s story is not in chapters. It is broken into moments. The use of this style mirrors the struggle to beat addiction. The language of the characters is raw and blunt, but never gratuitous. The writing is unpretentious. Glasgow’s words have elegance in their simplicity. Though fictitious, the character of Charlie is not made up. She is born of Glasgow’s personal experience and first-hand knowledge.
Contemporary YA is not usually on the top of my TBR pile. I prefer escapism and Girl in Pieces is definitely not that. I did thoroughly enjoy it though. So much so that it is the most memorable book I’ve read in a long time. The story in no-way glorifies self-harm or drugs. Nor is it a warning about what can happen if you stroll towards the dark side. It is a chance for the reader to reflect on coping mechanisms and perhaps understand more about those of others.
There is much beauty in Charlie’s tale. It is heart breaking, full of sharp edges and sadness. Most importantly, it is about recovery and how it is possible to save ourselves.
Reviewed by Fiona Miller-Stevens