I'm going to dare to reveal a bit of myself in this review because it absolutely affected my reading.
I had the early reader’s copy for this brilliant book for a few years before I could bring myself to read all the way through it, and I even started it once and couldn’t continue, shelving it for at least a year or so before picking it up a second time. It was an intense and very difficult read for me because of the subject matter, and I got through it after reading Kathleen Glasgow’s excellent second book ‘How to Make Friends with The Dark’ which was almost as difficult for me to read, and equally amazing. Together, these two books encompass so much of my own experience it’s heartbreakingly uncanny, and I was lucky enough to even let Kathleen know this when I met her at her own book signing here in Seattle recently.
I’ve been that ‘girl in pieces’ like Charlie, like the many young women out there hiding their scars from others, under clothing or bandages, caused by cutting, burning, or whatever ‘needed’ to be done in that painful moment. It was a long and very hard journey for me to heal enough from depression, grief, anxiety, self-harming behavior, and PTSD, to where I felt I could cope with life again. The book is honest and gritty, and since Kathleen knows exactly what this all feels like, she understood what I meant when I said it took me a few years to get around to reading this; in the author’s note, she writes that it took her nine years to get this book onto paper. But she’s here. I’m here.
This book is actually about hope, and that’s honestly why I really want many many young women, girls, to read this.
When I read ‘Girl In Pieces’ my journey and all sorts of things came back to me, and yes, this is why the book was so hard to read; it brought up thoughts and feelings I hadn’t had for years. I know that’s what will make it hard for others to read too. The cover is a trigger warning or just a plain trigger itself; I don’t know that anyone seeing that will have any doubt as to what this book is about. While the subjects within are difficult to read about, those who understand them stand to benefit the most.
It takes a boatload of talent to tackle all kinds of really difficult issues: drug abuse, sexual abuse, abandonment, parental neglect, grief, suicide, self-harming (and foster kids in her next novel), but Glasgow does a lot in this one book. Some reviews point out that there’s 'too much' in this one book but that’s the point; self-harming is rooted in deep pain borne from many issues, it doesn’t happen out of a vacuum. Many of these issues collide and Glasgow writes about them from her depths of her soul, from her personal experience.
There are a number of different characters in the book (the deeply wounded Charlie, the toxic Riley, counselor Casper, Charlie’s mom, a number of different friends who play varied roles in Charlie’s life along the way), and they’re all memorable and painfully vivid, often uncomfortably so. And Charlie's awkwardness, fear, pain, and bravery can be felt on every page. It's hard and absolutely heart-wrenching to read but it's incredibly worth it.
I'll end this by saying that some readers won't 'get' this book at all, others desperately need to read it and will likely have a hard time with it. But this book will reach some people and it will resonate deeply with them. When a book can touch you deep down it can stay with you forever. But scars and memories stay with you forever too, no matter how far in the past, and this story is a reminder of that.
Thank you, Kathleen Glasgow, for writing this book. I wish I'd read this a long time ago, even if I'm not sure I would've been ready. But I'm glad it's out there in this big wide scary world.