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34 Pieces of You Paperback – June 11, 2013
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Ellie died and Sarah did not. At first this is all anyone knows. There were pills and there was booze, but were the girls planning a double suicide? The three teens closest to Ellie are left to sort it out. Sarah had seen Ellie act with inexplicable cruelty and kindness throughout the five years of their friendship. It was Ellie who taught Sarah to escape emotional pain through self-mutilation. Ellie’s older brother, Jake, knows the terrible secrets of Ellie’s childhood. Now he is burdened with the memory of Ellie’s frantic phone calls just before she died. Sarah’s younger sister, Jess, may be keeping the truest secret of all: a box hidden under Ellie’s bed containing 34 mysterious notes. Told from the alternating viewpoints of Jess, Jake, and Sarah, the story is most moving when portraying the grief of those left behind after a teen’s death. Recommend this to readers looking for something similar to Thirteen Reasons Why (2007), by Jay Asher, and remind them to keep a box of tissues nearby. Grades 8-11. --Diane Colson --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
"A realistic journeycovering both before and after the death of a loved one, 34 Pieces of You willappeal to fans of serious, realistic fiction such as Cut by PatriciaMcCormick and Wintergirlsby Laurie Halse Anderson." (Shanyn Day, Shelf Awareness)
"[C]learly drawn characters and insights into one individual's profound influence on the lives of those around her result in a haunting read." --Publishers Weekly
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34 Pieces of You introduces the reader to 3 POVs: Jake, Jessie, and Sarah. All three have varying relations to the deceased: Jake was Ellie's brother, Sarah was Ellie's best friend, and Jessie is Sarah's little sister, an outsider of sorts.
Whenever books have multiple POVs I get slightly worried about character development and plot building, but Carmen Rodrigues did a wonderful job of handling the multiple perspectives. Each character was well developed and their stories blended together beautifully. The aspect I liked the most about the multiple POVs was how they showed the many ways one death could influence three people's lives. Both Jake and Sarah felt such an incredible sense of guilt over Ellie's death. Sarah was the last person to see Ellie alive that night while Jake was the last person Ellie called. Throughout the book, the reader witnesses Jake and Sarah hit so many highs and lows, as both question what they should've done, what they knew, and how they can move on. Their emotions jumped off the page and came to life, and throughout the book I wanted nothing more than the two of them to find peace. Jessie, however, was the really show-stealer here. At first I wasn't quite sure what role she would play - she didn't even seem to know Ellie very well, only in the role of her sister's incredibly intimidating best friend. Over the course of the novel, however, the reader learns that Ellie and Jessie had a larger connection than anyone could've imagined, and Jessie, just like Sarah and Jake, has equal amounts of quilt to share.
As hinted to above, the plot of this is incredibly character driven. 34 Pieces of You at its heart is a story of moving on and learning to make peace with the past. There was some mystery, though, in the form of what type of bond Ellie and Jessie shared, what had happened between Sarah and Jake in the past, and whether or not Ellie's death was truly an accident. All three questions managed to make the book move at a rapid speed, and by the end, I was quite satisfied with how everything turned out albeit a little heartbroken. (Side note: the scene with Jake and his dad at the airport? I cried a little...okay a lot.) What really shaped this novel into something special, however, was the 34 notes Ellie leaves behind. Each offered not only a personal, chilling view into Ellie's live but also more to Ellie's character than just the roles she is seen playing in each of the three perspectives.
In all, 34 Pieces of You is a novel that blew me away. So I urge you all to give this book a try - hopefully you all will enjoy it as much as I did!
I think part of the problem was the narrative. There's three different narrators, and lots of different times at which parts of the store take place. It was hard for me to keep track of who was talking and when this was taking place, so I kept having to check back to the beginning of the chapter. I especially found it confusing to have to tell apart Ellie's and Jake's family from Sarah's and Jess's, to remember which parents and family situations belonged to which pair of siblings. The voices are different, and I liked getting to know the three narrators, but it was still confusing in parts, although, again, this was probably due to my lack of concentration.
I also thought it was strange how much the title, cover, and description focus on those 34 strips of paper. To me, that just seemed like a very small part of the story; mystery is much less important to the plot than the description makes it out to be. The story is good as it is and doesn't need more mystery or anything; it just bugs me that the marketing of the book presented it as such when that's not really the case.
Honestly, though, those are just smaller complaints. The real problem is still that I just didn't connect with the characters or the story, even though most elements are things I usually love about books. Maybe I'll reread 34 Pieces of You one day under different circumstances, and I'll definitely read any future release by Carmen Rodrigues, but I just didn't love it this time around.