Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson
Release date: February 14, 2017
An ARC was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: A timely and powerful story about a teen girl from a poor neighborhood striving for success, from acclaimed author Renée Watson.
Jade believes she must get out of her neighborhood if she’s ever going to succeed. Her mother says she has to take every opportunity. She has. She accepted a scholarship to a mostly-white private school and even Saturday morning test prep opportunities. But some opportunities feel more demeaning than helpful. Like an invitation to join Women to Women, a mentorship program for “at-risk” girls. Except really, it’s for black girls. From “bad” neighborhoods.
But Jade doesn’t need support. And just because her mentor is black doesn’t mean she understands Jade. And maybe there are some things Jade could show these successful women about the real world and finding ways to make a real difference.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: This is why I love contemporary fiction. It's for books like Piecing Me Together where there is little-to-no drama and stress. As much as I love fantasy stories, those can take years off my life as I worry if the characters will make it out alive.
I loved Jade. She stands up for herself and black culture in the best ways. She learns how to use her voice. I loved her friendship with Lee Lee and how they never had any friendship drama. Books where the main character has started going to a different school or fallen in with a new group of friends always stress me out because I worry that there will be friendship drama between the main character and her best friend, but there wasn't here, and I loved it. Lee Lee and Jade support each other's passions. I also really liked Jade's new friendship with Sam. The girls come from similar but very different worlds, and I liked the exploration of how class and race can affect friendships. I also really liked that their friendship wasn't short-lived. There were growing pains, as there are with any new relationships, but the girls managed to push through and stay together. On a related note, I really liked Sam's grandfather, and I kind of wanted more of him.
Piecing Me Together is a character-driven book, so I would be remiss if I didn't mention Jade's family. Her relationship with her mom is given quiet moments as they too go through some growing. Jade is, of course, growing up, and her mom pushes her to take opportunities when they come her way. But, at the same time, her mom doesn't want to let her baby go. Jade's uncle E.J. is also present, and I think I needed a little more of him for him to matter to the story. Jade's parents aren't together, but I love how clearly her dad cares for her. He isn't the best dad, but he does want to be in his daughter's life and he encourages her.
I liked the dynamics between Maxine and Jade, although I kind of wanted more during the Women to Women group. Those girls all had such strong voices, and Jade lists most of them at one point, but I never felt like I got to know them. I'm not the best person to speak on racial issues, but I really liked how they were explored in Piecing Me Together in such a quiet way. Black culture is presented naturally, but also in a way that I got to learn more. It's not at all preachy; Watson presents things how they are and her characters vocalize how they want things to change, but it never feels forced.
My only big problem with this book was how choppy the chapters felt. Because they were short, and the book overall was short, Piecing Me Together never went quite as deep as I wanted it to. I will note that there's no romance, which I really enjoyed. I liked the romance in Watson's previous book, This Side of Home, but one would've felt out of place in Piecing Me Together, especially because there wouldn't have been enough space to explore it.
Language, violence, and sexual content are all super clean.
The Verdict: So, so, so, so, so good. I read this about three weeks ago, and it was my first favorite read of 2017. Do yourself a favor and buy this one (or ask your library to acquire a copy).
Will I be adding this book to my library?: Absolutely. It's preordered and everything.