Monday, April 29, 2013

34 Pieces Of You by Carmen Rodrigues

When Ellie dies of an overdose, she leaves her brother Jake, her best friend Sarah, and Sarah's sister Jessica to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives. Jake lived to protect his sister from anyone, but he failed. Sarah was Ellie's closest friend in their group of four with Jake and Tommy. She was there that very night, overdosing on those same purple pills, and she struggles to understand it herself how this could happen. Jessica, ever the thoughtful one, just wants answers - the truth from Ellie, for once.

The way this novel is written is intriguing. The chapters switch between three points of view, showing us the aftermath and numerous snippets and memories of before the accident. Each chapter starts with a cryptic note written by Ellie to unnamed loved ones. The truth is slowly revealed to the reader, piece by piece, until we have the whole story and an understanding of the eccentric, mysterious character of Ellie.

As you may guess from the summary, depression, self-harm and suicide are themes featured heavily in this novel. Between hopeless love triangles and abusive childhoods, these characters have their fair share of misery. The message of the book is not a morbid or negative one. The author pushes getting help as a realistic and successful solution, and we see how support, both professional and familial, can be so crucial to the future of a young person struggling with the will to survive and face life.  Scenes that could be disturbing or triggering are handled with grace; Rodrigues does not exploit heavy themes for shock value.

Many of the characters in this novel are selfish and not particularly likable, Jessica being one of the few exceptions. The foursome of Ellie, Sarah, Jake, and Tommy is a fairly self-destructive one, especially for Sarah given how it changed her. After the incident, many characters are focused on their own problems and act selfishly because of that. As they drown in their own self-pity, it's easy to stop caring. But you could say that is realistic. These characters don't exist to be liked. They tell a story.

The novel has its merits, and I would not dissuade anyone from reading it, but if you have other books on queue to read, go ahead and read them first if the idea of this book doesn't excite you. If you were interested and just wanted to check and see if its worth reading, then I'd say go for it.  That being said, if you or someone you know suffers from depression or suicidal thoughts, this book can be encouraging and enlightening.

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