34 Pieces of You

34 Pieces of You

4.5 10
by Carmen Rodrigues

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A dark and moving novel—reminiscent of Thirteen Reasons Why—about the mystery surrounding a teenage girl’s fatal overdose.

There was something about Ellie…something dangerous. Charismatic. Broken. Jake looked out for her. Sarah followed her lead. And Jess kept her distance—and kept watch.

Now Ellie’sSee more details below


A dark and moving novel—reminiscent of Thirteen Reasons Why—about the mystery surrounding a teenage girl’s fatal overdose.

There was something about Ellie…something dangerous. Charismatic. Broken. Jake looked out for her. Sarah followed her lead. And Jess kept her distance—and kept watch.

Now Ellie’s dead, and Jake, Sarah, and Jess are left to pick up the pieces. All they have are thirty-four clues she left behind. Thirty-four strips of paper hidden in a box beneath her bed. Thirty-four secrets of a brief and painful life.

Jake, Sarah, and Jess all feel responsible for what happened to Ellie, and all three have secrets of their own. As they confront the past, they will discover not only the darkest truths about themselves, but also what Ellie herself had been hiding all along…

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Magi Evans
Is it possible for an author of realistic fiction to take on too many issues in one book? Readers may ponder this question, as they delve into teen suicide, incest, cutting, parental neglect, infidelity, and sexual orientation. Was Ellie's death a suicide or an accidental overdose? Her best friend Sarah survived what was fatal to Ellie and is now simply existing, not living. Jessie, Sarah's sister, knows things about Ellie that no one else knows. Ellie's brother, Jake, lives with enormous guilt over his failure to be there when Ellie needed him. In alternating chapters, these three narrators reveal their relationship with Ellie and with each other, going back and forth between the past (the time before the suicide) and the present (the time after). Before each chapter, a hand printed snippet, representing one of the thirty-four pieces of paper found in a box under Ellie's bed, speaks to someone in Ellie's life. But just when readers think they know whom Ellie is addressing, the next one appears to be meant for someone else. One or two are truly revealing, while the rest seem to be more of a gimmick. The narrators also refers to Tommy, a secondary character who was a part of their friend circle and may also have a reason for guilt, but whose voice is never heard. The real story consists of the many different ways the protagonists loved Ellie, and how they felt they failed her in spite of that love. Here, Rodrigues shines as these three voices reveal their own destructive secrets. And though there is not a happy ending, there is a hopeful one, and for three devastated teens, that's enough. Reviewer: Magi Evans
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—This is a moving, alternative-voice novel, but it takes a little time to get into the story. The three main narrators all deal with death in their own ways. Ellie and Sarah overdose on pills and alcohol one night, and Ellie dies but Sarah survives. Sarah is left with the guilt of being left behind and not stopping her friend. Jake, Ellie's brother, is filled with regret for not coming home sooner when Ellie begged him to. Jessie, Sarah's younger sister, has a more ambiguous role to play; she is holding her secrets and mourning Ellie's death with no one to turn to for help. Each person must deal not only with what happened before and after the night Ellie died, but also find a way to share the burden of guilt and remorse. While the story is put together well, switching among characters can be confusing, especially at first. The narrative jumps from present to past with each character, so readers slowly start to figure out what happened when. There are many tough issues in this novel: alcohol and drug abuse, sex, eating disorders, cutting, bullying, and suicide. The author handles them candidly, but not graphically.—Natalie Struecker, Rock Island Public Library, IL
Publishers Weekly
Rodrigues's (Not Anything) intricate but sometimes wallowing second novel follows the lives of three teens connected by volatile high school senior Ellie, who overdosed on pills. With skillfully intertwined perspectives, the novel jumps between the months before and after her death. "Ellie had this way of pushing me past what felt logical into some other realm of what felt good because it was so wrong," says best friend Sarah, who is sinking after Ellie's death. Sarah's parents fail to notice that her quiet, 15-year-old sister, Jessie, is physically wasting away, the result of keeping secret her romance with Ellie. Meanwhile, Ellie's brother, Jake, is wracked with guilt for leaving her at home with their drunken mother and failing to return from college in time to save her. Rodrigues's moody vignettes, which are punctuated by stark fragments of Ellie's writing, strike a tone of despondency that sometimes drowns out her precise, poetic language. Yet clearly drawn characters and insights into one individual's profound influence on the lives of those around her result in a haunting read. Ages 14–up. Agent: Steven Chudney, the Chudney Agency. (Sept.)
Shelf Awareness
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 - Shanyn Day
"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."
From the Publisher
"[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
VOYA - Erin Forson
Everyone has secrets—especially the mysterious Ellie. When Ellie dies of a drug overdose, she leaves her friends and family floundering to make sense of it all. Was Ellie's death an accident, or did she commit suicide? Jessie's discovery of a box with thirty-four scraps of paper hidden under Ellie's bed may hold the secrets Ellie could not share, and help to reveal the reason for her death. Early on it becomes clear that Ellie is a survivor of child sexual abuse—abuse that has left Ellie scarred and broken. Yet, Ellie is not the only character riddled with scars; the work is a kaleidoscope of coming-of-age experiences that accurately reflect the confusing and volatile emotions that teens often face. Jake, Ellie's brother, bears the weight of his father's abandonment and his own departure when Ellie needs him the most. Sarah, Ellie's best friend, gets high with Ellie on the evening of Ellie's death and she feels responsible for the outcome. And Jessie, Sarah's younger sister, only just beginning to explore her sexuality, mourns the loss of her first love, Ellie. Through their alternating voices, the author expertly explores the murky waters of teen sexuality, drugs, and love with tastefully portrayed and touching scenes that will appeal to fans of The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobsky (MTV Books, 1999/VOYA December 1999). Public and school libraries, both urban and rural, will want to refer readers who enjoyed 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher (Razorbill, 2007/VOYA February 2008) to this somber work's realistically drawn characters struggling to deal with the crushing grief of early death. Reviewer: Erin Forson

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Product Details

Simon Pulse
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File size:
3 MB
Age Range:
14 Years

Meet the Author

Carmen Rodrigues earned her MFA in creative writing from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She currently lives on the coast of North Carolina. 34 Pieces of You is her second young adult novel. Visit her at CarmenRodrigues.com, or at Facebook.com/ThisIsMyHandstand, and follow her on Twitter at @ThisIsMyHndstnd.

Read an Excerpt



That Saturday I woke before dawn to the sounds of sirens, the doorbell ringing, and Mattie crying. I sat up, glanced at Sarah’s empty bed, and then the door creaked open. Meg stood there in her polka-dotted pj’s and fuzzy slippers, framed by the light from the hallway.

“What’s going on?” I murmured.

“I don’t know. They won’t tell me.” She flipped on the light.

“God, Meg!” I shielded my eyes. “Turn it off.”

“Sorry.” She flicked the switch and the room went dark.

“Is it Old Mrs. Sawyer again?”

“I don’t know.”

I grabbed the robe hanging off my bedpost and wrapped it around me. The house was chilly, and the cold only added to my exhaustion. I thought about going back to bed, but Meg was still there, staring at me expectantly. Below, our parents’ voices grew louder. A door slammed, and the sirens started up again. I peeked out the window just as the ambulance rushed away.

The street was bright with porch lights. A few neighbors huddled together in front of Mr. Lumpnick’s yard, talking. I scanned the group, looking for Sarah and her best friend, Ellie, but wasn’t surprised when I didn’t find them. Just because I had spent last night moping didn’t mean they hadn’t spent it partying. They were probably passed out somewhere.

Meg peered over my shoulder. “Mom said to come get you.”

I followed Meg down the stairs and thought about the possibilities for that ambulance. Since most of our other neighbors were standing in Mr. Lumpnick’s yard, I decided it had probably come for Old Mrs. Sawyer.

Mattie was wrapped in a blanket on the living-room sofa, sucking her thumb as she watched her Dora the Explorer DVD. Mom stood a short distance away, in the kitchen, her back visible from the hall. She was talking on the phone. I gave Meg a reassuring smile and said, “It’s okay. See how calm Mom sounds?”

Meg leaned forward to grasp her tone, which was steady enough for such an unexpected morning. “Go on.” I nudged her toward the living room and watched as she curled into the couch, covering her lower legs with part of Mattie’s blanket.

In the kitchen, Mom stood quietly beside the phone, her hand still holding the receiver to the base. There was something about her stance that made my numbness fade. “Everything okay?” I asked.

She turned to me, her skin blotchy from crying.


“Jess.” She came to me, grabbed my shoulders, and pulled me close. She whispered in my ear, “Sarah’s been in an accident, and I have to go meet your dad at the hospital. Okay? But it’s going to be fine. I just don’t want to upset your sisters. So let’s talk quietly for now.”

She stepped back and took my hands. She searched my eyes, offering me a shaky smile, but I saw the tears waiting.

A lump formed in my throat. I imagined Sarah in the role of Old Mrs. Sawyer, slipping in the shower, breaking her collarbone or something, the ambulance rushing her and Dad to the hospital while Mom sat in the kitchen, writing speeches about the perils of underage drinking. And there was little doubt in my mind that my sister and Ellie had been drinking.

“Is she really going to be okay?” I asked, because parents had a way of lying to you so you wouldn’t freak out. I wanted to know the truth. “Seriously, Mom.”

Mom nodded, dropping my hands to push the hair from her face. “We think so. She was still coherent when Tommy found her . . . found . . .” She put a hand to her mouth and looked out the kitchen window that faced Ellie’s house. I followed her gaze. The lights were on there, but the driveway was empty.

“Tommy was there?” Tommy was another kid from the neighborhood. The scenario changed again to include him: Sarah still in the shower, drunk, but now Tommy with Ellie, his hands crawling over her body. “What did Ellie say, exactly?” My voice turned sharp, the suspicion so strong it made my skin tingle. “Is she at home? Can I talk to her real quick before you go?” I wanted answers that I knew only Ellie could give, and I wanted to tell her she was an awful person for misleading me and betraying Sarah. I wanted to tell her that we would never forgive her.

Mom was at the window now.


She sank onto her knees and buried her head in her hands.


“Tommy found them, but he wasn’t there. The accident, Jess . . . it was Ellie, too . . .” She turned to me, tears streaming down her face.

And again the scenarios shifted until finally I understood. I gripped the edge of the table, willing the room to stop spinning, my breath to return.

“It’s not good, Jess,” she said. “Ellie . . . it’s not good.”

The heat clicked on, and a warm burst of air flowed across my calves. The room spun quickly now, flashes of colors that disappeared when I closed my eyes. Every noise in the world was silenced.

Then a small, cold hand slipped into mine. A soft voice whispered my name. I opened my eyes. Mattie stood beside me, her eyes curious but absent of fear.

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