Pieces of MeTitle: Pieces of Me
Author: Charlotte Gingras
Translator: Susan Ouriou
ISBN: 9781554532421
Pages: 144 pages
Publisher/Date: Kids Can Press, c2009

He turns to me. Already! This is not going to be pretty, I can tell, I can tell, I can tell.
“Mirabelle, you didn’t follow my instructions. You didn’t work with light or color. If you choose not to follow instructions, theere has to be a good reason, right? And you have to work doubly hard…”
He puts my pile of sketches down on his desk and chooses the top one, my favorite, to set on the easel next to Catherine’s. The contrast is just aweful, seeing the young broken maple without a single leaf next to the flaming tree. (28)

Mirabelle wants to have some friends who will call here Mira, because Mirabelle is her mother’s name for her. Mira gets her wish when the new girl, Cath, takes notice of their mutual talent and love for art. But her new friendship does not help her home life, where she lives in a basement apartment with her unemployed, paranoid mother. Her father visits every so often with the support check, but considering he left Mira behind to care for her mother, she’s less than happy with him. When life’s troubles become to much and she misreads her art teacher’s body language, she’s left seeking counseling from a blind red-headed woman. Readers must wait till the very end to find out if Mira is able to pick up the pieces of her broken life in Pieces of Me by Charlotte Gingras.

Ehh. That was my initial gut reaction to the book. The whole narrative seems forced, with readers kept at a distance from the character. I feel it necessary to warn that there are a few scenes of masturbation, and while not graphic they don’t seem to add anything to the story. Although I appreciate the effort to portray female masturbation, which doesn’t make an appearance very often in teen literature, it seems to detract from the image of the main character being a sexually repressed girl who has never had a boyfriend and never been kissed. To be honest, I half expected Mira and Cath to become a couple by the end of the book, and I feel that would have been more realistic and compelling. The student/teacher non-relationship (I call it that because nothing really happens) also feels like a literary device that was put in there at some misguided editorial urgings rather than to progress the plot or personal growth. I can just imagine someone saying “What if she also liked the teacher?” It says on the jacket cover that the book won “Canada’s most prestigious prize, the Governor General’s Literary Award, when first published in French” and I have to wonder what the other options were.