Cover of Pieces by Chris Lynch. The torso of a boy with random squares removed.

About the Book

Title: Pieces
Published: 2013

Cover Story: Literally Figurative
Drinking Buddy:
Some Teens Have Every Right to Complain
Testosterone Level: 
Talky Talk:
We’re Missing a Piece
Bonus Factors:
Medical Ethics
Bromance Status:
We’ll Always Have Pancreas

Cover Story: Literally Figurative

So Eric’s brother is gone, and he feels like he’s missing a piece of himself. But pieces of his brother continue to live. So, it’s like symbolism or something. Also, I’m pretty sure that’s Jim Parsons on the cover.

The Deal:

When Eric’s older brother, Duane, dies in a car wreck, his family makes the painful decision to donate his organs. Unable to deal with the loss of his brother and best friend, Eric writes to the recipients (via the hospital), and asks to meet. Three agree.

Unfortunately, the trio are not the obsequious angels Eric was expecting. Barry (liver) has a forceful, somewhat obnoxious personality. Melinda (kidney) is a gorgeous young mother who is grateful for her new shot at life, but not so much that she’ll leave her abusive husband. Philip (ear bones) is an odd teenager, very much a mama’s boy. Eric is disappointed that while parts of his brother continue to live, they live in people he doesn’t especially care for.

Who are these people?

And then there’s Martha, Duane’s ex-girlfriend. She’s been in Guatemala with the Peace Corps and got a very unpleasant surprise when she returned to Boston and stopped by for a visit. Though she was the one who ended the relationship, she still feels kind of like a widow. Duane had never really stopped loving Martha. And neither has his brother.

And Eric can’t shake the feeling that up in heaven, Duane’s laughing his ass off at all of them.

Drinking Buddy: Some Teens Have Every Right to Complain

Two pints of beer cheersing

Yeah, we’ve all heard how this generation thinks life isn’t fair. Well for Eric, life really screwed him up the ass. His brother is dead, and there’s absolutely no justice in that. Duane’s gone, that’s the ugly, unfortunate fact.

At the same time, Eric doesn’t seem to have much of a life, even before the accident. Other than vague plans about joining the navy someday, we get very little sense of who he is and what makes him tick. His brother was his closest friend, but may have been his only friend.

Then again, Eric finds himself being yanked in many directions, trying to be everything to everyone: a mentor to Philip, an enemy to Barry, a protector to Melinda, a father to Melinda’s son, and a…friend? to Martha. Small wonder he has little time to work on his own identity.

Testosterone Level: Mild

Not a super action-packed book, but Eric does end up in a brutal fist fight in the parking lot of a Chuck E. Cheese. I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels violent at that place.

Talky Talk: We’re Missing a Piece

This book was only 168 pages long, which is rather short for a ‘dead brother’ book. Aside from Eric being an underdeveloped character, I felt there was a lot missing. We’re given little history of the organ recipients. Just why did Barry need that liver? Was Philip totally deaf before, or what? Maybe these characters would resonate more if we knew exactly what Duane’s sacrifice meant for them. Hell, I had no idea you could transplant ear bones, and a bet a lot of people don’t even know there are bones in your ears.

Duane’s organs went to seven people. Three declined to meet Eric and a fourth could not travel due to his health. I think if Lynch had included another recipient and delved deeper into the ones we meet, this book would have been more satisfying.

Bonus Factor: Medical Ethics

Cover of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, featuring the Hollywood-style monster

Duane didn’t actually die in the car wreck, only his brain. His family had to make the difficult choice to pull the plug. And while the decision was ultimately up to his parents, they wouldn’t do it unless Eric agreed.

Now Duane’s heart is a year older than he ever was. His liver is in Barry, a guy who drinks way too much, at least in Eric’s opinion. His lung is in someone who won’t even take the time to have lunch with the donor’s brother. Eric is feeling a lot of rage here. Why aren’t these people more thankful? What right do they have to treat his brother this way?

And yet, in the end, Duane is gone, the organs no longer belong to him. Eric has to learn to move on. Tempting as it would be to take the organs back.

Bromance Status: We’ll Always Have Pancreas

I’m not sure I want to see this book again, too many painful memories. But…keep in touch, eh? And, um…tell my brother I said hi.

FTC full disclosure: I received neither money nor bone marrow for writing this review.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.