Pieces of You Eileen Merriman, Penguin Random House, 2017
Eileen Merriman’s debut YA novel Pieces of You is the kind of book you want to read in one sitting because it is so breathtakingly good. It is like a globe artichoke: sweet, layered, bitter. Fifteen-year-old Rebecca moves from Dunedin to Auckland, feels like a complete outsider, misses her friends, goes to a party and something awful happens that she can’t speak of, so cuts herself in order to get relief from pain. She meets her neighbour Corey and they fall in love. His dark secrets hide alongside her dark secrets. They write poetry together. They share their love of literature. They are good for each other but they don’t tell each other everything and that keeps the dark dark.
The chapter titles are titles of outstanding books (The Outsiders, One Hundred Years of Solitude, The Book Thief, Great Expectations, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, The Catcher in the Rye and so on). Rebecca and Corey talk about books a lot and books become little anchors, bridges between each other, vital keyholes upon a wider world. Books are part of the fabric of their daily life and that matters. They write a poem, Rebecca writing a line and then Corey the next. I adored this book/poetry/love of words presence.
I am not going to spoil the story by telling you what happens. Read it for yourself. Just know that this is an acute reading experience. It feels utterly real. It does not smudge the tough stuff. It is kaleidoscopic in both emotion and everyday detail. Detail that animates that lives of two teens. There are countless examples of excellent books on the tough experiences that some teenagers face (drugs, alcohol, abuse, rape, cancer, suicide, the death of a friend or family member) but that is not to say such subject matter is now done and dusted. Far from it.
Eileen writes with such a flair for dialogue, for family circumstances, for teenage struggles and joys. This is the kind of book that will stay at the front of my mind all week and longer – I recommend it highly.
Eileen has also written Catch me When You Fall (2018). Invisible Breathing is out in 2019.
Eileen’s web site