|Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: A brilliant, moving coming-of-age story in which a young African American girl finds her voice.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 272||Date: February 2018|
|External links: Author's website|
Jade lives in a rough area of Portland, Oregon. But she goes to a very posh school on scholarship.And, as an African American scholarship girl, Jade knows she must grab every opportunity the school offers. Her mother, a care worker, won't be paying for college after all - there is rarely enough money at home for ice cream, let alone college. But why do all the opportunities the school offers Jade seem so, well, patronising? Jade doesn't feel like a charity case. She doesn't feel broken. Her mum is a good mum. It's infuriating. But, when the school offers Jade a mentoring programme that will ensure a college scholarship, how can she say no?
We follow Jade over the course of a school year, in which she makes a new friend in Sam, develops a sometimes uneasy relationship with her mentor Maxine and tests boundaries with her mother. All through this, Jade continues to work at her art - making collages of everyday ephemera into beautiful images. As she does this, she reflects on the interactions of race, gender and class, and how they affect not just her but figures from America's past and present - Yorke, the slave who accompanied explorers Lewis and Clark; vicious police violence against a local girl.
Oh my goodness but there is so much to like in Piecing Me Together. I know you don't want me to be here forever or to give it all away so I'll try to be brief...
... firstly, the first person narration is direct, vivid, and entirely credible. Jade is a great kid but she isn't perfect and she does make mistakes and jump to conclusions. But the strength of her narrative voice means that you're rooting for her even when she does slip up. Secondly, there is no romance! Hooray! For once, a young girl is featured as herself and through her relationships with other girls and women and the men who appear aren't love interests. I love the way this story centres women and girls. Thirdly, this is an American YA story that examines social class. So much of American YA has wonderful things to say about race, gender and orientation but too often through a middle class lens. Here, Watson examines the Venn diagram of race and social class in American society in a truly illuminating way. Jade has things in common with Sam, a white friend who, like Jade, lacks the class privilege enjoyed by many at her posh school but who also benefits from being white, and also things in common with her mentor Maxine, who holds that class privilege Jade does not, but who also suffers the slings and arrows of being black in contemporary America. Watson's analysis will give readers much pause for thought.
Anything for me to criticise? Nope, sorry! Not a thing. I loved Piecing Me Together. Jade's vivid voice jumps from the pages and straight into your head. And the thoughts she incites when she gets there are just as vivid, thought-provoking and inspirational.
You can read more book reviews or buy Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson at Amazon.com.
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