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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.
Posted October 26, 2012
(Source: I borrowed a copy of this book.)
Ellie is dead, whether it was suicide or an accidental overdose nobody knows. Sarah did it with her, but she survived.
Ellie was a live-wire, but she also self-harmed, cutting herself, drinking too much, and getting high all the time.
Now she’s gone and it’s up to everyone left behind to pick up the pieces.
This book is an emotional journey of how the three people closest to Ellie perceived her and her actions, how they made things better or worse, and how they feel about Ellie and certain events after she is gone. Thankfully though, this book is not depressing, which I find many books about these sort of issues to be.
The story is told from the points of view of Sarah (Ellie’s best friend), Jessie (Sarah’s sister), and Jake (Ellie’s brother), and also from multiple points in time both before and after Ellie’s death. Each of the character’s lives is so complex, and the interweaving of their lives is really beautiful to read.
Ellie’s life is messed up. She’s hiding secrets that have really messed with her head, and she’s acting crazy in defiance of the way she feels inside. She’s sending out self-destruct signals, only they’re difficult for people to spot, and as so often is the way, nobody believes that she will really damage herself to the point where she dies. Ellie’s strange, and destructive behaviours are a cry for help, only she finds it difficult to accept help if it’s offered. This same pattern is mirrored by Sarah in the time after Ellie’s death.
This book obviously deals with the very real problems of depression and suicide in teens, but instead of focusing directly on Ellie it focuses on how her behaviour affected her friends and family and how nobody was brave enough to accept the reality of how Ellie was feeling and do something about it.
There is a hint at romance in this book, but again it’s tangled in with everything else that happens to Allie, Sarah, Jessie, and Jake, and it’s not really an over-riding theme. Each of the characters are totally real and flawed in their own ways, and it’s easy to get inside their heads as you read their chapters. I liked the way the book moved on from character to character to give you a more rounded idea as to what was going on, and who was thinking and feeling what.
I think the idea of this book is to bring the subject of teen depression, self-harm, and suicide into a public forum, and I think it does this well. I just hope that people take the advice to ask for help after reading this, rather than going Ellie’s route and resorting to drinking, drugs, and cutting.
If I had one complaint it would be that the cover for this book bears no resemblance to the story itself at all. I think the girl is supposed to be Ellie, but does that girl look depressed, self-destructive, and suicidal to you? Can you see the multiple scars on all that exposed flesh from where she’s used blades to slice her skin?
And the other thing; I had absolutely no idea that the little handwritten messages at the start of each chapter were written by Ellie, none at all – until I read the blurb (which I read after I read the book (I didn’t want spoilers)). The box of notes in question also doesn’t play as key a role in the story as the blurb leads you to believe either. (Okay, sorry, maybe that’s 2 complaints…)
Overall; this is an insightful, poignant book, with an important message, and I really enjoyed it. I will definitely be buying a copy of this to keep.
8.75 out of 10.
2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 22, 2012
Posted January 3, 2014
Posted July 5, 2013
I though this book was very well written and had very important messages for teens dealing with the problems that ellie and her friends went through. I even cried during the bookWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 12, 2013
Posted October 5, 2012
Posted September 23, 2012
Ellie is a girl on the edge. The type of girl that takes you out for the time of your life and brings you out of your shell. She also encourages you to make poor decisions and can cause you to lose yourself in the glare of her spotlight. She is an enigma, complicated and troubled. She is also now dead, due to a tragic night that is somewhat shrouded in mystery.
Through a series of cryptic clues, Ellie's friends try to put together the pieces of her life and discover the truth of the events leading up to her death. 34 Pieces of You is told from each characters' perspective and Rodrigues is brilliant at teasing out the details and the secrets that each one is hiding as well.
Each sad, lovely character has a unique and true voice (including Ellie). I laughed and cried right beside them. Rodrigues has created a world that is true to the modern teen experience. While she does not shy away from the dark side of being a teen, none of it is a gimmick or device to seem cool or hip. The final revelation of Ellie's full story is heartbreaking and beautiful.
34 Pieces of You is an exquisite and heart-wrenching tale of the dark side of growing up, loss and finding yourself.
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Posted September 25, 2013
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Posted January 30, 2014
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