Pieces of You, Eileen Merriman

Fifteen-year-old Rebecca McQuilten moves with her parents from Dunedin to Auckland. Lonely, but trying to fit in, she goes to a party, and that’s where things really fall apart.

Things begin to look up when she meets her gregarious sixteen-year-old neighbour, Cory Marshall, and he helps her piece her life back together. But that’s before he shatters it all over again.

This is Merriman’s debut novel and she has set herself a high standard. Pieces of You is raw, emotional, and deals with some pretty tough topics in a sensitive way, rather than through sensationalism.

Rebecca and Cory’s story delves in to mental health, self-harm, rape, and suicide. It is not for the faint-hearted, but it is an important story to tell. She deals with the darkness with truth, and sincerity. Merriman has included a list of support services at the end of the book, a thoughtful, caring touch. Including the parents and therapists in the story as well helped solidify the proof that powerful connections with others can help you in deal with internal struggles.

While it took a wee while to really get invested in the story, once I was in, I was hooked. Merriman crafts each character carefully and the story seems almost like it is a diary. There were plenty of times when I wanted to reach in and hug nearly every character; many pages where tissues were needed to wipe away the tears.

Behind the heavy themes there’s also some lovely moments. Both Rebecca and Cory have a love of poetry and good books. Merriman herself is clearly a passionate reader as well, with each chapter inspired by some of the greats of the writing world.

The ending was unexpected and heart-wrenching. Yet it also has a spark of hope. I love that this is a Kiwi book. Our mental health, and teen health, statistics make for grim reading. This book adds an important voice to our culture, and I hope every teenager, and every parent of a teenager, picks it up and reads it. Pieces of You may be a hard read in terms of storyline, but it is a very important one.

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TITLE: Pieces of You
AUTHOR(S): Eileen Merriman
PUBLISHER: Penguin Random House
RRP: $19.99
ISBN: 9780143770473

Rebekah is an Otago-based mother of two young girls. The former journalist and primary school teacher has a soft spot for New Zealand authors and young adult fiction. Follow her on Twitter.

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