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The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Girl in Pieces is an intense look at the life of a teen who self-harms, her road to recovery, and the people she meets along the way. The book opens with Charlie Davis in a treatment facility, in a ward with other women who engage in self-harm, including cutting and burning. Once out of the facility, she has to figure out how to create a new life when she hasn't fully dealt with the family issues and loss that drive her self-destructive behavior. The book's an honest look at how people end up in desperate situations. The subject matter is gritty. In addition to the characters who self-harm, Girl in Pieces portrays alcoholics, drug addicts, the homeless, and others struggling to get through life. None of the drinking, drugs, or smoking is glorified. Several of the characters have endured trauma and messed-up home lives. Much of the violence is told in flashback and isn't graphic, but there are a few intense scenes of pushing and grabbing. Sexual attraction plays a large role in the book, and a few sex scenes are borderline graphic. The story is thought-provoking and provides great discussion points around empathy for people struggling with serious issues and the concept of enabling.
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What's the story?
In GIRL IN PIECES, Charlie Davis is learning to cope day by day, sometimes minute by minute. A cutter who took it to the point of near suicide, Charlie finds herself in a hospital ward with other women who self-harm. Written in a first-person journal style, the story follows along with Charlie as she is discharged, moves to Tucson, and is forced to make a go of recovery on her own. It's much harder than she ever imagined. Her rough home life, serious losses, guilt, and other trauma are told in flashbacks, as they swarm up in her mind, consume her, and threaten to keep her from moving forward. She meets many people who have their own demons and struggles, some working hard to stay sober and clean, some spiraling out of control and threatening to take her down with them. Her love life's complicated because of her low self-worth, and she mistakes enabling a drunk and a drug user for loving and caring for him. Her art saves her on more than one occasion, because it's the way she's most comfortable expressing herself and it's the one, true thing she likes and knows about herself. She meets many people who care about her and help her, and she learns that sometimes you have to create a family if yours isn't a safe place for you.
Is it any good?
Gritty, raw, and real, Charlie Davis' story of self-harm and recovery will alternately gut and charm you. In Girl in Pieces, author Kathleen Glasgow draws on her own history of cutting to weave a realistic, empathetic look at what goes on in the minds of people who self-harm. The story is well balanced. Even though the subject matter is heavy, Glasgow always keeps a spark of hope in the pages. All the characters -- even the minor ones -- are well-drawn and complicated people, which makes the reader invested in the story and the outcome. Some of the passages are rough going, especially when Charlie is recounting her life on the streets or when she starts to fall into old habits, but Glasgow's beautiful writing keeps the story from being too depressing.
In addition to the topic of self-harm, Girl in Pieces paints an unflinching but empathetic portrayal of people dealing with loss and substance abuse. Issues around what it means to be an enabler figure strongly into the story, too. Charlie is a relatable, interesting narrator who struggles to make a new life but doesn't fall into annoying self-pity. The book is on the long side and would have benefited from more details about Charlie's backstory with her mom and dad, but her journey will stay with readers long after they've finished the book.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Girl in Pieces deals with self-harm and substance abuse. How are these types of issues usually portrayed in the books you read and movies you see? Do you find yourself having more empathy for people in real life after reading or watching these fictional stories?
Many young adult novels deal with physical or mental illness. Which others have you read and liked? What's so compelling about these topics?
Art is more than an escape for Charlie, it's how she expresses her feelings and communicates when she physically can't talk. Do you have an outlet like that?
- Author: Kathleen Glasgow
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Delacorte Press
- Publication date: August 30, 2016
- Number of pages: 416
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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