Charlotte Davis is in pieces. At seventeen she’s already lost more than most people lose in a lifetime. But she’s learned how to forget. The broken glass washes away the sorrow until there is nothing but calm. You don’t have to think about your father and the river. Your best friend, who is gone forever. Or your mother, who has nothing left to give you.
Every new scar hardens Charlie’s heart just a little more, yet it still hurts so much. It hurts enough to not care anymore, which is sometimes what has to happen before you can find your way back from the edge.
TW: self-harm, abuse
Girl in Pieces is a harrowing but sensitively told portrayal of a girl who self-harms and finds herself at rock bottom, ending up in a rehabilitation centre, and having to claw her way back to being a functioning human being, putting her life back together – piece by slow piece.
It’s not easy to read, from the state of mind that urges Charlie to cut, to the horrors of her life on the street. But for me, the portrayal never felt gratuitous. The author really captured that overwhelming need for release, when the thoughts and the feelings need an avenue to escape.
“There’s nothing wrong with you, Charlie. Not one thing. Can’t you see that?”
But that’s a lie, isn’t it? Because there are so many things wrong with me, obviously and actually. What I want Mikey to say is: There are so many things wrong with you and it doesn’t matter.
Some people have mentioned the slow pace of the book. For me, there were two mitigating factors – the chapters are very short, and secondly, I appreciate the detail of everyday minutiae when it’s relevant to the situation. For instance, as an underage girl fending for herself, I actually do want to know the practicalities of how she’s looking after herself, and her daily routines.
It should be noticed that there is also a relationship depicted between our underage protagonist and a late-twenties guy. It can come across as a bit romanticised at points, even though they both acknowledge that they are completely destructive and wrong for each other. The love interest’s sister does very clearly call him out on it, however, and places the blame firmly where it belongs.
I would have liked to have found out more about the girls in Charlie’s therapy group, as there were some fascinating characters there. However, the focus of the book was more on Charlie’s life as she tries to attain some sense of normalcy. She screws up plenty and often on her way to recovery, but she doggedly picks herself up time and time again. There are also unlikely supportive figures, all of whom are rooting for her to make it.
I appreciated the positive depiction of therapy, at least the focus on vital it is and how it can help, with Charlie continuing to rely on her therapist even after she leaves the facility. All too often treatment is demonised in these kinds of novels. And while it certainly isn’t depicted as a pleasant experience, it is shown that there are people who truly want to help.
Free copy received from Jonathan Ball Publishers in exchange for an honest review.