Piecing Me Together was a bit slowly paced for me, but in the end I loved the book. 5/5 stars. Spoilers to follow.
For the first half of the book, we watch Jade live her life. While we’re getting used to her reality, this is interesting. However, for me, this get-to-know-Jade period lasted too long, and Jade’s avoidance of conflict with her mentor, Maxine, didn’t compel me to keep reading as the story plateaued.
However, I did keep reading and didn’t regret it. The second half of the book I read mostly in one sitting
Renée Watson does a great job of showing us how invested in going to Costa Rica Jade is. We see how hard she’s worked and what the trip means to her, so when she doesn’t get to go, we are crushed with her.
I was particularly upset that Jade’s teacher said he didn’t nominate her because she already had so many opportunities.
Character Growth and Themes
Jade’s passion for collaging was powerful and tied in perfectly to the book’s themes about finding your voice. Watching Jade learn how she wanted to present herself to the world was relatable, and watching her create the reality she wanted was inspiring.
Jade’s want (traveling abroad) pairs well with her need (learning to stand up for herself and set boundaries). As crushing as missing out on the Costa Rica trip is, the disappointment propels Jade forward and gets her not only the travel opportunities she wants but also her public debut as an artist.
I particularly loved Jade’s fight with Sam, in which she finally expresses her pent-up feelings about how draining other people’s efforts to help her are. She identifies an important distinction between opportunities that are designed to fix you and opportunities in which people know you have something to offer others.
I particularly liked how Woman to Woman became useful to Jade only when she learned to communicate her dissatisfaction with Sabrina and Maxine. A special treat was watching Jade’s mom’s relationship with Max change as Max matured. Once Jade’s mom felt respected and valued for her own skills, she was much more open to listening to and helping Jade learn from Maxine.
Piecing Me Together expresses many young women’s buried thoughts about programs that both help and don’t help the underprivileged. Jade shows us that programs meant to help people need to work with people as they are and help them reach their goals, not assume they fit one mold and need to be fitted into another.
Easy to say, but not so easy to do.