Book Report: Our highly scientific analysis of a book, from the characters to the writing style to the swoon. See More...

Take Another Little Piece Of My Heart

A review of Carmen Rodrigues' 34 Pieces of You. It's out today! Why are you wasting time reading the review when you could be reading the book?

Take Another Little Piece Of My Heart

BOOK REPORT for 34 Pieces of You by Carmen Rodrigues

Cover Story: Dead Girl
BFF Charm: Yes, No, Maybe So
Swoonworthy Scale: 4 And A Secret 8
Talky Talk: He Said/She Said
Bonus Factors: Good Parents, Hope
Trigger Warnings: Eating Disorders, Cutting, Sexual Abuse
Relationship Status: Protective Big Sister

Cover Story: Dead Girl

Look, cover designer people, I GET IT. The book's about a dead girl, so yeah, you can put a dead girl on the cover. And props for making her look like Ellie, down to the pink fishnets. But really? Is it REALLY necessary to plaster dead girls all over books? At least this cover model is ambiguously dead, unlike some I've seen, and COULD just be Ellie lying on the floor in a drugged-out haze, but you and I both know that's not the truth.

The Deal:

They were inseparable, an unbreakable foursome: Sarah, Ellie, Jake, Tommy. But then things just happened. Jake went to college. Sarah, Ellie, and Tommy partied. Ellie died. Sarah woke up in the hospital. Sarah's little sister Jessie, the quiet one, the responsible one, is left to watch it all fall apart. As Sarah, Jessie, and Ellie's brother Jake struggle to reconcile the Ellie they knew with the Ellie who died, they have to try to come to terms with guilt and blame, and learn more about themselves.

BFF Charm: Yes, No, Maybe So

Jessie gets my wholehearted BFF charm, 4LIFE. The girl is so smart and so tough, and watching her try to be who she thinks people need her to be is heartbreaking. I just want to wrap my arms around her and give her a safe, non-judgey place to unburden herself and figure shit out.

Oh, Jake. Jake, honey. It's not that I DON'T like you, it's just that the troubled bad boy with a heart of rather confused gold just isn't my type. You're sweet, when you remember to be, but you're also such a GUY. If you weren't so withdrawn and uncommunicative and untrusting, all sorts of bad things might have been avoided. Plus, the guyliner. Yeah, you were only 13, but dude. GUYLINER.

As they say, it takes two to tango, and that goes for screwing up relationships as well as for just plain screwing. Sarah isn't totally blameless in the whole affair, but I am willing to cut her some slack. I know what it's like to be nerdy and unsure, and get blinded by sudden social attention, leading to becoming someone totally unlike your true self. I ALSO know what it's like to wake up and realize this, and to fight back and gain the confidence needed to not give a shit what other people think, and while I'd like to help Sarah out here, I think she's the only one who can really do it and make it stick. I like her, I really do, and I'd be willing to give a friendship a shot, but I'm not sure about making us BFFs yet.

Swoonworthy Scale: 4 And A Secret 8

There's a lot going on in the book, and this review is going to be vague so you can discover all the secrets as the characters disclose them. But Sarah and Jake's off-again, on-again relationship isn't a secret, even if it's SO FRUSTRATING. I give them only a 4, not because they're not sweet, but because they're so broken it, pantyfires would be devastating rather than healing. And the secret 8? Well, just read the book, lovey. It made me SWOON.

Talky Talk: He Said/She Said

The book's told from Sarah, Jessie, and Jake's perspectives, jumping around from the night of Ellie's death, to five years earlier, to months later. It's a rare book that can successfully pull off two different voices, let alone three, but Rodrigues nails it. This comes partly because it's how the book grew organically for her, not because she decided to force the story into a structure, but mostly because of her skillful writing. Each character's syntax, sentence structure, chapter length, vocabulary, everything, is different from the other -- and consistent with their selves -- across the book.

Each chapter also starts with a fragment of writing from Ellie, which sets the tone and starts to help unravel her secrets. I can't decide whose story is more poignant -- Jessie's outsider story, Jake's big brother heartaches, or Sarah's bitter two-steps-behind BFF, waiting to discover her own personality and life.

Concerned Therapist taps her pencil on her notepad and smiles. This is not because today is a pleasant day, and the birds outside Smithville Memorial Hospital are chirping, and the sun has created rainbow patterns on the worn linoleum floor. No, it's because it's one of her settings. She has three: Concerned. Reassuring. Empathetic.

Bonus Factor: Good Parents

There are some super shitty parents in this book, and some who are trying hard but are lost, and then there's Glenn. He's Sarah's stepfather and Jessie's father, but he never makes that distinction. HE says he's Sarah's dad, and he's a steady, constant source of encouragement and love, even when his girls are unable to see it.

Bonus Factor: Hope

There's a lot of miserable shit in this book, but there's also a faint line of hope. It's faint, very faint, but it shows up in unexpected places, like Sarah and Jessie's sweet baby sister Mattie, who's chubby and has a lisp and is never happier than when she's snuggled in a sweaty hug, being read Dora the Explorer. It shows up in parents doing the best they can, and in friends simply trying to connect, and in ex-friends learning to forgive.

Trigger Warnings: Eating Disorders, Cutting, Sexual Abuse

I'm not going to go into details here, to avoid spoilers, but rest assured: This is not a Laurie Halse Anderson or Jodi Picoult book (not that the two are similar; just know they don't bear similarities to THIS book).

Casting Call:

Joe Jonas as Jake

Because he'd totally would wear guyliner, yeah?

Relationship Status: Protective Big Sister

My feelings toward this book are fierce. I think it's smart and amazing, and has a lot of great things to share, and -- at the risk of embarrassing the poor book -- I'll beat the crap (or threaten to beat the crap) out of anyone who messes with it. I'll fight to help it out if it ever loses its way, although that's unlikely, since it's got a great head on its shoulders. I'm not the big sister who rolls my eyes and tells it to go hang out with someone else, because this little sister is way mature and awesome enough to hang with my friends. If those friends don't think so, well, they're not my friends anyway.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my review copy from Simon & Schuster. I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!). 34 Pieces of You is available today (September 4)!

Meghan Miller's photo About the Author: Meghan is an erstwhile librarian in exile from Texas and writer for Forever Young Adult. She loves books, cooking and homey things like knitting and vintage cocktails. Although she’s around books all the time, she doesn’t get to read as much as she’d like.