The Children’s Book Review | February 24, 2016
Written by Renée Watson
Hardcover: 272 pages
Age Range: 12-16
Publisher: Bloomsbury (2017)
What to Expect: Realism, Teen Challenges, Issues of Race and Discrimination
It is a frequent complaint of teachers, librarians, and children’s literature scholars that authentic and well-written multicultural literature is difficult to find. Renée Watson’s new novel, Piecing me Together, goes some way towards addressing this scarcity, in a story which is both challenging and accessible.
Jade comes from a poor, black neighborhood and a poor, black family. She is talented and lucky enough to be constantly attracting “opportunities”: the opportunity to attend a prestigious, “white” high-school paid for by scholarship money, the opportunity to make friends with children outside of her neighborhood and social group, and now the dubious opportunity to attend a mentoring program for “at risk” children, which may end in a college scholarship. It is not that Jade is not grateful for these opportunities: she has worked hard for them, and recognizes that they represent her “way out”. At the same time, however, she cannot help questioning the underlying assumptions that lurk behind each kind offer: the assumption that without help she will go wrong or waste her life, the assumption that her own family and friends are not enough, and even the assumption that all black women and girls can relate to one another. What she wants more than anything is the opportunity to participate in the study-abroad service program: a program that will, for once in her life, be about what she can give rather than what she needs. As she enters her junior year at St Francis, her soul-searching narrative will show just how fragile an identity can be.
Most compelling about Piecing me Together is the simple, engaging narrative voice, reminiscent of Beverley Naidoor’s writing. Capturing the directness of childish thought, but also the complexity of thought of which young adults are only just beginning to be capable, Jade’s voice rings with authenticity. If this story is a plea for greater understanding and empathy, then it is a perfect tool for fostering that engagement in readers, allowing them a glimpse into problems and triumphs which challenge social conventions, and yet remain utterly relatable. A fantastic read, and one which teachers in particular will want to sit up and take stock of.
Explore Piecing Me Together further with Dr. Jen Harrison in this article: Dialogue and Narrative Voice in Piecing me Together
About Renée Watson
RENÉE WATSON is the acclaimed author of the teen novel, This Side of Home, and two picture books: Harlem’s Little Blackbird and A Place Where Hurricanes Happen, which was featured on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams. Her middle grade novel, What Momma Left Me debuted as an ABA New Voices Pick. She lives in New York City.
Piecing me Together, by Renée Watson, was reviewed by Dr. Jen Harrison. Discover more books like Piecing Me Together by following along with our reviews and articles tagged with Folklore, Ghosts, Supernatural and Young Adult Fiction.
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