Pieces of Us by Margie Gelbwasser – book review

Pieces of Us || Margie Gelbwasser  || Contemporary || 336 pages || Flux || 3.56 on Goodreads

Two families. Four teens.
A summer full of secrets.

Every summer, hidden away in a lakeside community in upstate New York, four teens leave behind their old identities…and escape from their everyday lives.

Yet back in Philadelphia during the school year, Alex cannot suppress his anger at his father (who killed himself), his mother (whom he blames for it), and the girls who give it up too easily. His younger brother, Kyle, is angry too—at his abusive brother, and at their mother who doesn’t seem to care. Meanwhile, in suburban New Jersey, Katie plays the role of Miss Perfect while trying to forget the nightmare that changed her life. But Julie, her younger sister, sees Katie only as everything she’s not. And their mother will never let Julie forget it.

Up at the lake, they can be anything, anyone. Free. But then Katie’s secret gets out, forcing each of them to face reality—before it tears them to pieces.

Disclaimer: Before I get into my review I would like to give a warning to anyone who is thinking about reading this book. It’s nothing bad, I promise! As you’ll soon find out, I thought the book was brilliant! But please be aware of the topics discussed within this book. There’s abuse, both verbal and sexual. The are topics rape, prostitution, suicidal thoughts and actual suicide. There are eating disorders and anxiety among characters. I just want everyone to be aware of this because these things can be triggering to some people and I wouldn’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable.

So this was one of those books that I picked up at random off a bookshelf in the library. It was actually on the ‘Recommended’ shelf so I picked it up, thought it looked short, and took it home. I even didn’t read if I’m being honest. I guess I trust the librarians at my local library.


Within 40 pages of the book, I already had a list of five people who I wouldn’t mind if they suddenly fell off a cliff and the book just ended with Julie walking off into the sunset. Katie thought too highly of herself and her lack of consideration for her sister was beyond me. Alex, Chris and Ethan represented everything I hated about males I’ve never felt so much hatred for a character as I did for Julie’s mum. You learn to ignore the dislike for them as the novel goes on.


The characters weren’t likable. Margie Gelbwasser has done a lot of work to make sure of that. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing because the characters were raw and they were real. There was no sugarcoating of any sorts during this story and no topic was left half-tackled or only briefly mentioned. This book presents us with the brutal truth of people’s attitudes on rape, abuse etc. that are usually hidden from the people around them and as well as attitudes that aren’t really presented in books and media because they are frowned upon. There are people who blame the rape victims. There are people who turn a blind eye on serious situations because they’d rather not be involved. There are people like these in the real world, Alex’s and Katie’s and mums like Julie’s. The author doesn’t just touch on these issues, she makes them into prominent factors in the story, all while shaping sex and popularity into weapons and ways of progressing in the school hierarchy. It was risky but it paid off.

The amount of character development is extremely impressive for a 230 page book. I didn’t expect to be liking Katie more than Julie at the end of the novel. I didn’t expect my love for Kyle to grow, but it has. And the most wonderful thing is that this character development happens for a reason. I can name multiple titles when you can definitely see the change in character but it’s there for the sake of it because none of the events helped to shape that change. With this novel, though, the reasons are definitely there you can see that every choice that each character has made at the end of the novel has been influenced by something in the story. For such a short book to achieve this, it’s amazing.


I was really close to giving this book a 5/5 but I reserve my 5’s for my all-time favourites that I could read over and over again and I don’t quite feel like this book fits into that category. There were only small things that I noticed but they made the difference.

The fact that Catskills was a Russian village was very interesting and I wish we used it more in the story. It put forward the Russian names to the plot and that was it. The names did have their significance and symbolism but the fact that the village was Russian definitely had more potential.

However, the main reason why the novel dropped a star was because it was just too depressing at times. It’s a lot of misery on top of misery at times and I felt like it was really getting my mood down. I read to escape and although I enjoy books with more of a serious tone, I still want to be happy reading them.


  • Kyle – The only character I could stand for the beginning to the end of the novel. He’s my kind of introvert and even though I found it a little hard to relate to him sometimes.

RATING: [4/5]

RECOMMEND TO: fans of Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher and the like.


One thought on “Pieces of Us by Margie Gelbwasser – book review

  1. Pingback: Ten Books I’d Love to Read With My Book Club | Book Rambles

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