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I found 'Girl in Pieces' such a powerful, eye-opening story and I'm so glad that Kathleen Glasgow decided to write it. I think it's so important for us to hear more of these kinds of voices, to become more aware and develop a greater understanding of mental illness. Beautifully written, with real, gritty characters, 'Girl in Pieces' tells the story of main protagonist Charlotte Davis. Charlotte or Charlie is a young girl whose life seems to be breaking apart. As each heartbreaking, terrible thing happens to her, she seems to get a little bit smaller and feel a little bit more insignificant. It seems inevitable that nothing will change for her, but through her art and the kindness of friends Charlie is able to start putting herself back together.
Charlie doesn't have anyone in the world. She's broken and her soul has shattered due to all of the horrible things she's been through. The pain often becomes unbearable and when she wants to make it stop for a while cutting is her only way out. Charlie has scars on her arms and legs, because she doesn't want to remember what happened to her father or the things an evil man has done to her when she was vulnerable and she also can't cope with what happened to her best friend Ellis, the girl who tried to end her life. Charlie's mother can't take care of her daughter and when after a long time on the streets Charlie finally ends up in a treatment center where they can do something for her, she has to leave because there's no money to pay for her stay. Charlie is on her own again. Will she be able to find a way to put the pieces of her life back together and make it whole again all by herself?
Girl in Pieces is an impressive emotional story. Charlie has known very little love in her life. Her childhood was unhappy, she lost the only friend she had and the boy she loved with all her heart didn't love her back. Charlie has to find a way to be more than just an invisible person who doesn't speak and that isn't easy. She cuts herself because she can't cope with the abundance of emotions that are constantly overwhelming her. Kathleen Glasgow describes her pain in a beautiful raw and realistic way. She knows what she's writing about and isn't afraid to show others what it's actually like. I found that incredibly brave and it made the book even more terrific and special for me.
Charlie is a sweet and talented girl. She's craving love, she wants to belong and she'd love to finally feel welcome somewhere. It's a sad situation and her despair radiates off the pages. It isn't easy to read about, but Kathleen Glasgow's amazing writing and skillful translation of feelings into words made it difficult for me to put Girl in Pieces down. Charlie tries to pick herself up, but she's quite naïve and hasn't seen much of the world and the people in it yet. She's only seventeen, so she still has a lot of living to do. I kept hoping the broken girl would get a chance to heal. Because of this I couldn't stop reading to find out if she'd actually get there.
Girl in Pieces is a book about big problems and tough situations. Charlie's issues resemble those of a lot of girls and I love that Kathleen Glasgow gives them a voice and makes her readers understand how and what drives someone to self hurt and mutilate. I was shocked by some parts of the book and I often had tears in my eyes while reading about Charlie's struggles. There's only one person who can change Charlie's life and better days will only come when she's ready to face this. Girl in Pieces is an incredible book, it's a strong thought-provoking story with a clear powerful message for everyone who feels broken in any kind of way.
‘Girl in Pieces’ is the debut contemporary young adult novel by American author, Kathleen Glasgow.
I’d been hearing quite a lot of buzz about Kathleen Glasgow’s debut. Every blogger whose opinion I value was giving it 5-stars and warning that this was a book to break your heart and open your eyes, and now that I’m out the other side of it … they’re not wrong.
‘Girl in Pieces’ begins thus;
**** LIKE A BABY HARP SEAL, I’M ALL WHITE. MY FOREARMS are thickly bandaged, heavy as clubs. My thighs are wrapped tightly, too; white gauze peeks out from the shorts Nurse Ava pulled from the lost and found box behind the nurses’ station. Like an orphan, I came here with no clothes. Like an orphan, I was wrapped in a bedsheet and left on the lawn of Regions Hospital in the freezing sleet and snow, blood seeping through the flowered sheet. The security guard who found me was bathed in menthol cigarettes and the flat stink of machine coffee. There was a curly forest of white hair inside his nostrils. He said, “Holy Mother of God, girl, what’s been done to you?” My mother didn’t come to claim me. But: I remember the stars that night. They were like salt against the sky, like someone spilled the shaker against very dark cloth. That mattered to me, their accidental beauty. The last thing I thought I might see before I died on the cold, wet grass. ****
And with an opening that raw and beautiful, I was hooked.
The girl lying on the cold, wet grass is 17-year-old Charlie Davis, whose father committed suicide, her abusive mother kicked her out of home and a tragedy has befallen her best friend – a tragedy Charlie seems hell-bent on repeating for herself. Charlie is institutionalised, and in diary-entry style the book takes us through her group therapy and release.
The comparison to Susanna Kaysen’s 1993 memoir hit 'Girl, Interrupted' (which was adapted into an Angelina Jolie Oscar-winning movie) is absolutely spot-on, but with a perhaps more satisfying examination of why Charlie is existing on the fringe. There’s something generally about ‘Girl in Pieces’ which feels at once 90s retro, but with unflinching YA modernity. Glasgow’s book reminded me of landmark YA fiction – 1971’s 'Go Ask Alice' or 'Cut' by Patricia McCormick, and of Australian YA such as 'Diary of a Street Kid' by Margaret Clark and the works of Scott Monk. It reminds me of the time when authors were first writing about the things teens weren’t supposed to be reading, let alone living … homelessness and drug use, self-harm and sexualisation.
Something about Glasgow’s writing also reminds me of Janet Fitch (and again that 90s feel, for her 1999 'White Oleander' in particular) mixed with a little 'How the Light Gets In' by M.J. Hyland – it’s in the raw rhythm and cadence, the look-you-dead-in-the-eye grit on the page and for how these books share female characters who envision a single person can save them, but they eventually realise they need to save themselves and fast.
And yet it’s frustrating for me to keep describing Glasgow in terms of who she sounds like and reminds me of, because Girl in Pieces deserves praise for being utterly unique too, and Glasgow’s voice being a booming debut … it’s just, I think, that to read a first novel that’s this accomplished and assured has me comparing her to well-known writers and coming up baffled that she doesn’t yet have a backlist I can trawl through, a previous book to dive right into. How can a debut be this damn good? Where has Kathleen Glasgow been hiding all this time?!
This book hurts, but it’s what I call a ‘necessary read’ – for I feel better for having known Charlie Davis, and reading Kathleen Glasgow for the first (but surely not the last) time. This one is a favourite of the year, for me.