Before I started reading this book, I knew it was going to be powerful, but nothing prepared me for just how powerful and important that this novel is. This is one of those books that I think should be mandatory reading among high school kids, because it is proof that no matter how low you might feel, and how you may be accustomed to believing that you can’t amount to anything, you can, if only you believe in yourself, stand up for yourself, and make something out of the life you were given.
“The only thing fancy about me is my name: Jade. But I am not precious like the gem. There is nothing exquisite about my life. It’s mine, though, so I’m going to make something out of it.”
Jade isn’t thrilled with where she lives – and she longs to get out of there, go away to an amazing college, and make something of herself, so she isn’t just your average black girl living in a poor neighborhood, like she knows all of the rich kids who go to her school probably think of her. After being awarded a scholarship to this private school, which happens to be mostly white except for a few kids, she feels out of place, and she misses her best friend, Lee Lee. Jade feels like she has nothing in common with these girls, except skin color. They don’t even live in the same area, and when they find out where Jade lives, they try to hide their surprise that she doesn’t come from money, like the rest of them.
While Jade feels alone for a while, she meets up with Sam, a new girl who takes the same bus she does, and goes to the same school. When she and Sam start talking, she feels happy to know that she has another friend who she can relate to.
When Jade is called into the office at school one afternoon, she hopes it has to do with the school’s study abroad program – after all, she has decent grades, and this is the year that students get nominated. But when she is told that she has been chosen to be a part of Woman to Woman, which is a mentoring group for students who are “at risk” she is disappointed – especially when she finds out that the program is mostly for black girls.
Jade’s mother encourages her to go, and Jade agrees, mostly because those girls who complete the two years of the program will be awarded a scholarship to college. Jade knows that she doesn’t have the money to get there on her own, so she agrees to stick with it, even if her mentor, Maxine, stood her up the first time that they were supposed to meet, and spends most of her time on the phone with her ex-boyfriend (who also happens to be Jade’s uncle’s best friend), and ignoring Jade or bailing on her.
Although, as Jade sticks with the program, she tries to get what she can out of it – the group takes the girls on trips to the Oregon Symphony, art galleries – all of which Jade does find herself enjoying. Since Jade likes art, and creating things, she feels at home.
When Sam gets nominated to go to Costa Rica for the study abroad program at school, Jade is furious, and she makes sure that Sam and her teacher know. Since she and Sam have been a little on edge (Sam doesn’t know how to react to the racism that Jade faces, or the instance of police brutality that occurs with a local teenage girl), so the two of them have a falling out.
When Jade decides that she wants to do something worthwhile in order to raise funds and bring recognition to the police brutality that the local girl has had to deal with, she works to organize an event that will help raise money for her goal.
“‘You have to believe you are worthy of life, of happiness. That you are worthy of your wildest dreams coming true.'”
This book is absolutely necessary. It deals with difficult topics, such as issues involving race, police brutality, and privilege, and does so in a beautiful and important way. Piecing Me Together tells not only the story of Jade, but the story of millions of girls who want to make a difference in their world, but because of many circumstances, believe that they aren’t worthy of making their voices heard.
Jade’s character is so easily likeable, and the friendships that are explored in this book are vital. The friendships that Jade had with Sam and Lee Lee were inspiring, and I loved the fact that this book doesn’t focus on romance at all. It’s such a refreshing change of pace. The relationship that Jade has with her mentor, Maxine, is also interesting, because you get to see how at first, Maxine wasn’t quite interested in the program, and how it changes and she eventually starts spending more and more time with Jade, encouraging her.
Jade grows so much as a person throughout the pages of this book, especially when she starts learning to stand up for what she believes in and what she wants. She is so determined to go to college and contribute to the world, and she isn’t afraid to chase her dreams. She tries her hardest to move forward with them in order to get what she wants. She focuses on education and bettering herself, and the overall theme of this book is a powerful and inspiring message to not only teens, but adults as well.
The powerful message within the pages of this book is a message that every girl and boy, young or old, needs to be reminded of.