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When high school oddball and introvert Jessica Chai is killed in a car accident, her parents decide that Jessica would have wanted her organs donated to those who so desperately need these gifts of life. But Jessica is angry about dying and being dismembered. Taking the idea of cell memory to the next level, not only do the recipients get pieces of Jessica, but gets pieces of their memories and lives moving forward—she knows what they know and keeps tabs on their growth, recovery, and development. This begins her...
When high school oddball and introvert Jessica Chai is killed in a car accident, her parents decide that Jessica would have wanted her organs donated to those who so desperately need these gifts of life. But Jessica is angry about dying and being dismembered. Taking the idea of cell memory to the next level, not only do the recipients get pieces of Jessica, but gets pieces of their memories and lives moving forward—she knows what they know and keeps tabs on their growth, recovery, and development. This begins her journey to learn her purpose as she begins to grasp that her ties to these teenagers goes beyond random weirdness. It's through their lives that Jessica learns about herself, as she watches the lives she literally touched continue to interlock.
Posted June 29, 2014
Pieces of Me spoke to me on multiple levels. The premise was awesome, and the minute I saw the synopsis (especially the longer one on the inside of the book) I added to my list and requested from the library. I have devoured books about illnesses, organ transplants and the like. Lurlene McDaniel is my hero in writing books that make me feel for the characters and something about disease just fascinates me, especially in teens where they are both so deeply effected by the impact on their lives and also at the same time so resilient. They can focus on both facing death or serious illness and still care about finding love.
Jessica is a great main character. She felt so invisible but she wanted to be seen. This could have been my autobiography in high school and still some to this day. It was hard to get to know her and know she would die. But living through the kids that received her organs... Well, loved the premise. It took me a bit to get used to the characters, their voices, personalities and the intricacies of their lives. I didn't get a whole snapshot of their illnesses or what led them to get a transplant, but I got enough. And as the book went on, and I was with Jessica in their heads even when they weren't aware that she was looking on their lives, seeing how some of them interact with one another, cheering them on or giving them advice. It helped me to really get to know them and be invested just like Jessica in their lives and what's becoming of them.
Vivian with her cystic fibrosis and her more inward personality connected with me first. Despite the huge impact it has on her life, she has adapted. She has a passion for art and that is how she connects with another recipient. Overcoming obstacles and still trying to get the most of her life was a message I enjoyed. Especially her relationship with her dad, and the things that he did to make her therapy and lung exercises seem like a game instead of a chore.
I felt so bad for Misty and her living situations. She was in the true ghetto. Getting sick and being hospitalized she felt so much guilt because of the money involved to save her life. It put a big strain on her already poor family and she wanted to take that burden away. She hides in the library and becomes very close to another character Sam. He gives her peace and comfort in a world where nothing felt safe. Her grandma was convinced that she was possessed by a demon, her dad and mom yelled and argued and she never felt safe there, but among the books, and connecting with her online friends gave her a sense of escape.
Sam was so wise, and sought answers. He was obsessed with searching out the miracles in every day life, and he created a game and chats in order to raise money for charity. He wanted to believe in a higher power, a purpose deeper than surface level and day to day in life. He provided a lot of comfort for both Misty and Leif, but also learned a lot from them too.
Leif is a character that was a whole lot deeper than I expected, and I think that he ended up surprising even himself. He explored life outside of football and really wanted to figure out what in life made him happy and also made a difference. When he meets Vivian, I loved the awkward sweet way they interacted, how they second guessed themselves and the building attraction that they both were convinced wasn't reciprocated. He challenged Vivian to see life beyond today and gave her the courage to live beyond the here and now, and make plans and hope for the future. Because none of us are gauranteed a tomorrow, its not just those with chronic illnesses. Sure, they have a lesser chance of a tomorrow, but they shouldn't deprive themselves of a full life and chasing after what they want.
The ending was so fitting and perfect for this story. It was uber emotional and sad in some ways, but also there was a sense of conclusion while still making way for "mores." They realized Jessica had given then a chance at more, and through her death and gift, getting to live more right along with them, something bigger and longer lasting than just herself. Jessica also got her closure and peace, but also a window into what they're doing with their futures.
Bottom Line: Emotional story about teens who are connected by donated organs, but lives even more entangled and close than they'd ever imagined.