Suzanne Young is one of those authors that I will read pretty much any books she writes – she has a way to create amazing stories that not only pull you and make you forget everything else going on around you, but she has a way with writing characters that are deep and easy to connect to. That was the reason that I fell in love with Hotel Ruby from the very first page, and that’s the reason I fell in love with All in Pieces. When this showed up in my mailbox (thank you, Simon & Schuster!), I was beyond thrilled and pretty much dropped everything to read it.
All in Pieces is a young adult contemporary masterpiece. It’s so full of heart and feelings that you’ll be convinced that there’s simply no way that this is only a story. In fact, All in Pieces is the kind of young adult novel that the world needs.
This book does have drug use in it, and since that can be a trigger warning for some, I just wanted to make sure that I mention this before continuing. It also has abuse and sexual assault in the later parts of the book, so I would recommend caution if it is a problem.
Savannah has anger issues. At least that’s what they said when she stabbed her ex-boyfriend with a pencil. Yep, a pencil. He mocked her little brother, Evan, because he has a disability, and she drove it right through his hand. Of course, it wasn’t taken kindly to, and she got sent to an alternative high school for kids who have caused problems or have gotten into serious trouble. So when Savannah gets sent to this alternative high school, she tries to make the best of it.
Savannah doesn’t have a very happy home life – her father is usually drunk and wants nothing to do with her, and never even buys them groceries – instead spends his money on alcohol, never really caring what’s going on with her or her brother, Evan. Their mom left, leaving Savannah to spend most of her time caring for Evan on her own. Sometimes the biggest accomplishments of her day are getting Evan to eat his dinner, especially if it isn’t his favorite, hot dogs and macaroni and cheese. Evan has meltdowns and needs constant care, which is hard for Savannah, who has to spend all of her time with him. While Evan does see their aunt a few days a week, when he is at home, Savannah is all he has.
Savannah has friends at her new school, even though she doesn’t particularly enjoy it there. They more of less help and look out for one another, and Savannah doesn’t know what she would do without them.
Then a new kid, Cameron, starts at their high school, and Savannah finds herself trying to avoid falling for him, but not really being able to stay away, despite how hard she tries. She vows not to let Cameron, who seems like he has it all – parents who love him, money, a nice house and car – see exactly how she lives. Poverty, an alcoholic father, absent mother, and run down house, aren’t exactly things that she can be proud to show off to him.
“Sure, Cameron called me interesting, but he doesn’t know me or my life. He’s never seen Evan melt down or my father scream. And I won’t let him. I’ll never let him see that part of me.”
The two of them form a friendship, and Savannah slowly begins to open up and learn more about Cameron in the process, as well.
And then the unthinkable happens – Savannah’s aunt wants to take full custody of Evan, and the mere thought of losing him is unbearable for Savannah. He is all she has family-wise, and she doesn’t know if she will be the same if she takes him.
At the same time, Savannah’s ex-boyfriend begins harassing her, and it causes her fear every time she leaves the house. Due to the fact that the cops who were called on her about the pencil incident are going to be the ones she talks to if she does call the police, she knows nothing will come of it, so she doesn’t call them. It’s really heartbreaking to see what kinds of things that he can get away with.
This book was such a powerful, emotional read that I honestly spent days just thinking about it after I had finished it (which, by the way, was pretty much the same day I started it, it was so good). I really felt like I could relate to Savannah, and I have to say, as a parent who has taken care of a special needs child, I can’t imagine being a teenager and being in her shoes. It’s the kind of book that everyone needs to read – it will not only take you through a very accurate day with a special needs child, but it will also show you what kind of effect those rough days can have on the caregiver.
The relationship with Savannah and Cameron wasn’t an insta-love situation, so no need to worry about that if insta-love isn’t your thing. It’s more of a slow burn type of relationship, and in fact, the majority of the book is about the two of them being friends more than anything else. It’s just perfect.
Since one of Savannah’s friends is into drugs, there is a moment that’s kind of scary, and honestly had me wanting to cry, but it has its purpose in the book. The abuse that Savannah suffers late in the book at the hands of her ex-boyfriend is terrifying, and it honestly had me disgusted that she could be treated this way.
This is probably one of my favorite books of this year, as you can probably tell by the rare 5 star rating that I gave this one. I don’t remember the last time I felt so many emotions over the course of a single book. I have a feeling I’ll be reading this one again, and very soon!