Piecing Me Together

Book review by
Terreece Clarke, Common Sense Media
Piecing Me Together Book Poster Image
Powerful, insightful tale of self-awareness, power of art.

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Kids say

age 13+
Based on 2 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Presents information about socioeconomic differences and the dynamics between friends and families. Uses and translates some Spanish words and phrases. Some information about important figures in art and history.

Positive Messages

Speak up for yourself, don't give up on people when they disappoint you, know your worth, friends and family are very valuable, mentorship is a two-way street. Problems arise when people offer seemingly positive messages in a routine way without thought.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Jade is a strong role model who helps other students, works hard in school, is creative with her art, and stays true to herself. Her mother, her father, her mentor, Maxine, and her friend Lee Lee are positive role models, too, but none is presented as perfect, which makes them believable and engaging.

Violence

Mention of police brutality and its victims, including references to Michael Brown, Emmett Till, and Sandra Bland. Mention of an incident in which a young girl was assaulted by the police and sustained horrific injuries, but the incident is not shown.

Sex

A girl refers to her mother giving birth to her at 16. There's advice on waiting to start serious relationships and have sex. A reference to the play The Vagina Monologues, which is not described in great detail but it's mentioned that the subject matter includes sex, rape, first menstruation. 

Language
Consumerism

Very few references to specific brands, used to denote socioeconomic differences or set a scene. Brands mentioned include Nike, Jolly Rancher, and Dairy Queen.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink alcohol and talk about cocktail parties. An adult is shown being drunk and aggressive toward a young girl on the street. Mention that a man is being fired because he's high.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Renee Watson's Piecing Me Together won the 2018 Coretta Scott King Author Award and was named a 2018 Newbery Honor Book. It's the story of a 16-year-old high-achieving African American high school student on scholarship at an exclusive, mostly white Portland, Oregon, private school, who gets help from a mentor and defies stereotypes. The novel deals with issues of identity, self-image, race and gender bias, privilege, and the power of art. Parents should be prepared to answer questions about police brutality, socioeconomic differences, stereotypes, and learning about yourself.

User Reviews

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Teen, 13 years old Written byBrinieves March 18, 2018
Teen, 13 years old Written byRyan848 August 17, 2018
This is a very educational read with positive messages and is very inspiring. Not to mention it is a great read, with all the right elements.

What's the story?

In PIECING ME TOGETHER, Jade is a high-achieving student and artist (in collage and photography) at an exclusive private school. She's the person other students turn to when they need help in school, but for some reason, all anyone else can see is that she needs help. Just because she doesn't have a lot of money, is African American, and comes from a poor neighborhood, everyone is always trying to fix what's "wrong" with her. The truth is there's nothing wrong with her. She has a lot she can give to the world if they'd only wake up and realize that in trying to fix her, they shatter her whole self every time she steps foot out the door. When she's nominated to take part in a mentorship program with an African American mentor, Jade balks, but the promise of a full college scholarship at the end makes it too good to pass up. Can she accept this extra help and still keep the pieces of herself together? Can she affect change in her world, or will she be shattered beyond repair?

Is it any good?

Readers will fall in love with real, poignant, and lovely Jade the moment they step into her brilliant, colorful mind, seeing the world as she does in all its beauty and contradictions. Piecing Me Together is so layered and beautifully put together, the fully fleshed-out characters come alive and become our friends, sisters, and mentors. Author Renee Watson makes the case for seeing African American girls and women as they are, not as the stereotypes foisted on them.

There's a humanity that Watson touches on that makes the story, situations, and characters relatable while giving a megaphone to voices that are traditionally silenced. This is a must-read not only for girls but also for parents and educators of both genders.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the portrayal of African American girls and women in Piecing Me Together. How does it compare with their portrayals in the media? What are some stereotypes about them and how they live? How do you think that affects how people treat them in real life? 

  • Have you ever been stereotyped? How did it make you feel? What images and media reinforce that same stereotype? What media and people defy those stereotypes?

  • Have you ever had a mentor? Why are mentors important? What do Jade and Maxine learn from their relationship?

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