There was something about Ellie... Something dangerous. Charismatic. Broken. Jake looked out for her. Sarah followed her lead. And Jess kept her distance, and kept watch.
Now Ellie’s dead, and Jake, Sarah, and Jess are left to pick up the pieces. All they have are 34 clues she left behind. 34 strips of paper hidden in a box beneath her bed. 34 secrets of a brief and painful life.
Jake, Sarah, and Jess all feel responsible for what happened to Ellie, and all three have secrets of their own. As they begin to confront the darkest truths about themselves, they will also find out what Ellie herself had been hiding all along...
I love broken people, and this book is certainly full of them. From Ellie, the girl who does end up dead, to Sarah, a seemingly good girl turning bad at the influence of Ellie yet also simply wanting Ellie’s friendship. Then there’s Jess, Sarah’s younger sister, left in an even more good girl type position, who’s lost more than anyone knows. Finally there’s Jake, Ellie’s brother, and a boy who utterly broke my heart. Protective and loving of his sister, despite their problems, and running in some of the worst ways from everything that’s happened, he is a mess, definitely a jerk, but also someone who just wants to figure out how to be okay. Jake’s story stood out the most to me of the four, yet it’s also the way he’s woven into everyone else’s specific stories, and they into his, that really make this book brilliant.
There are a lot of elements to this one, from sexuality and relationships, to just plain sex and kissing, to first impressions and last words. Add in a huge family element, a painful web of secrets, and then of course the mysterious pieces of paper Ellie has left behind, and there are a lot of questions unwound in this book. Even still, Rodrigues navigates everything poignantly and respectfully, yet also doesn’t hold back. This book is raw, and will definitely leave you feeling gutted more than once, yet it is so worth the journey. From the different way each of the three characters dealt with Ellie's death to how they reacted to her and each other in life, to simply the big questions Rodrigues brings up, this one is everything I love in a contemporary YA and more. 34 Pieces of You is a book I can’t recommend enough, and one I will definitely be rereading.
Source: ARC received from publisher in exchange for an honest review
Reading level: Ages 14 and up
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: September 4, 2012