Review: Girl in Pieces

24879132

Review:

Kathleen Glasgow’s debut is one of the hardest books I’ve read, and at the same time, one of the easiest. It falls firmly on the “Adult” side of “Young Adult” literature, ironically because of its unflinching focus on issues that affect millions of real teenagers: self-harm, mental illness, suicide, addiction, homelessness, and physical and sexual abuse. Parents will balk at the content, but the sad truth is that most teens are probably not strangers to these topics.

The story follows 17-year-old Charlotte “Charlie” Davis as she struggles with recovery from a failed suicide attempt. Homeless and fleeing an abusive mother, she finds herself in a rehabilitation center, only to be thrown out into the cold when her insurance stops paying for treatment. Soon she finds herself on a bus to Tuscon, Arizona, to meet up with a high school friend and to try to start life fresh. Once there, Charlie struggles to make ends meet and finds herself spiraling dangerously toward old habits.

Glasgow’s gorgeous, poetic prose drew me into the story immediately and carried the narrative like a tune. It was legitimately hard to put down: I think I devoured more pages on my meal breaks than food until I finished it. I don’t know how long she spent working on the manuscript, but it paid off — and, like all the best writing, the final product seems effortless.

While lyrical writing charms me, the book’s strongest appeal is its characters. Charlie was vulnerable and raw, but the first-person perspective didn’t diminish the secondary characters. Glasgow adds depth and nuance to people who are far too easy to pigeonhole in stereotypes: an ex-rockstar addict, a troubled goth girl, a haunted artist, a cocky patient from rehab. The settings themselves have their own vibrant personality, too, from a freezing Minnesota winter to a grungy cafe to a Day of the Dead celebration in Tucson.

This one is going to leave a mark in the genre, not for its unflinching presentation of the darker sides of life, but for its unrelenting movement forward. Failure, hurt, and heartbreak don’t vanish from the pages as you move toward the end of the book, but the message is upbeat: “you can survive this.” At the end of the day, the core of Girl In Pieces is hope.

Review: The Obelisk Gate

26228034

  • Release Date: August 16th, 2016
  • Author: N.K. Jemisin
  • Website: http://nkjemisin.com/
  • ISBN: 9780316229265

Review:

When a customer comes to me for a science-fiction recommendation, the first thing I pull from the shelf is N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season. “It’s like Between the World and Me written as an apocalyptic revenge saga,” I say with a grin, probably for the seventh time that day. It’s no secret that I’m a little in love with this book. Set in a world where bizarre extinction events happen every  couple of centuries, it begins with an earthquake that may have literally split the continent in two. The story follows Essun, a powerful orogene — a person with the ability to control (and cause) seismic events — after she discovers that her young son was murdered by her husband, who has fled with their daughter as the aftershocks of the earthquake begin to hit.

With The Obelisk Gate, Jemisin maintains her position as one of the most talented sci-fi/fantasy writers in the field. The Obelisk Gate is the middle installment in the trilogy and it picks up right where the first book left off (which is too big of a spoiler to reveal, so I won’t.) Unlike the first book, which carried readers to all corners of this strange world, the sequel stays fairly stationary. Indeed, in a lot of ways, The Obelisk Gate is a bridge book: compared to the kinetic years-spanning narrative of The Fifth Season, the sequel is a breather, giving the story and the readers a chance to process what has been learned while feeding in new twists of its own.

The most notable addition is the introduction of a new perspective character: Essun’s daughter, Nassun. Nassun begins the novel on the road with her father, who has just murdered her baby brother — and might murder her, too, if he realizes she is an orogene. Jemisin does a powerful and heartbreaking job of depicting the fear, trauma, and toxic coping mechanisms that emerge from cycles of abuse. I’m almost hesitant to see how it all plays out in Book 3.

But that’s just the thing: like I did when I finished The Fifth Season, I nearly chucked The Obelisk Gate across the room because I was so frustrated that Book 3 won’t be out for another year or so. This trilogy knows how to leave you hungry.