Title: Another Little Piece
Author: Kate Karyus Quinn
Rating: 4 Stars
I’ve been struggling to put together exactly what did – and didn’t – work for me with this novel. Another Little Piece is a strange story, there is no denying that. Annaliese, our protagonist, is found walking in her hometown with no recollection of who she is or even that she has been missing for nearly a year. As pieces of her past slowly begin to come back to her, however, Annaliese realizes that she isn’t, in fact, Annaliese; she is another girl in Annaliese’s body. And, even more hauntingly, Annaliese isn’t the first girl to lose her soul – she is only one of many.
What I Liked:
Bold: Another Little Piece is a bold debut, unflinching in its honesty and not hesitant, in the least, to portray gruesome, often horrific, imagery. Quinn, with her first novel itself, tackles on a variety of “taboo” topics in YA, which I loved. Not only does this novel talk about sex, but it discusses homosexuality, suicide, and death explicitly as well. If you’re not comfortable with these topics, then I’d suggest you seek out a different read.
On the other hand, what this enables Quinn to do is to approach her novel without any barriers, which is refreshing. Annaliese is subject to a variety of dreams, memories, and fleeting glimpses into the past lives she has lead, which makes for an interesting case study into the teenage girl. Why is it, after all, that so many of these girls are willing to sell their souls? Although Quinn portrays adolescent girls in a light that isn’t always positive, it is most definitely realistic, which I appreciate. Everything, from friendships to relationships to the obsessive tendencies which girls possess comes to light in a brutal, no-nonsense manner which really works. Although this novel is very much a mystery, dispersed with paranormal thriller and horror sub-genres, it remains a very intriguing look at the lives of teenage girls, in all their psychological glory. I’m all for authors who can expose hidden realities in our society, so I appreciate that instead of reverting to tropes such as slut-shaming or sexism, Quinn takes a different approach at looking at girls in YA.
Family: When Annaliese – or anyone, for that matter – goes missing, her family is devastated. Thus, when she unexpectedly returns, the bond she forms with the mom and the dad, as she calls them (for they aren’t her real parents), is realistic and beautifully written. I love the depth of the relationship between these three, both their messy flaws and the strength and acceptance they have for one another as well. Quinn perfectly captures the feelings of hopelessness and guilt that Annaliese’s parents feel in having let down their daughter. After all, with a missing child, they have only themselves to blame. Thus, Annaliese’s return is both a joy and a worry for they can immediately tell that the child who has returned to them isn’t the same one who left. Yet, finding a way to remain a family after such a tragic incident is a heart-warming journey to watch unfold.
Romance: Admittedly, the romantic arc of this novel isn’t very well developed – it kind of just…appears – but it works for the tone of the storyline. Dex, the neighbor of Annaliese, is perfect for her precisely because he is so very messed up himself. We begin to see a greater manifestation of paranormal abilities in him and their effect on his life is startling. What I truly love about Dex, though, is that he isn’t defined by his relationship to Annaliese. Instead, he’s very much a character in his own right with his own personality, his own problems, and his own plot lines as well. Thus, their convergence with those of Annaliese’s work strangely well, creating a love story that only enriches the individual personalities of these two complicated protagonists.
Choice: Annaliese, as a character, is strong and easy to get behind. Not only is she one of those no-bullshit type of protagonists, but she does her best to make her transition back into the world as seamless as it can be for her parents and friends. Yet, I particularly love that as Annaliese uncovers more and more about her past, she feels as if she has no choice in her future. Quinn handles the arc of Annaliese’s inner battle between taking a decision and not taking that leap of faith really well, portraying it in a believable manner. Moreover, Annaliese faces these choices all the time: to tell the truth about who she is or not; to salvage the friendship with her former best friend or remain alone; to trust her family or keep them in the dark. In addition to the reoccurring theme of choice, there is also an equally important counter-effect of dealing with those choices and following through on them, which is both chilling in context of the novel and surprisingly real as well. Ultimately, these themes come through really well throughout the novel and only add to the essence of the story.
What I Didn’t Like:
Paranormal: Honestly, I wasn’t a fan of the paranormal elements to this tale. I didn’t mind them in the least, mainly because they made for such horrific and gory reading, but I wish these aspects of the novel had been explained. Although we finally come to put together what happened to Annaliese and uncover the mystery of her past, we never figure out how – or why, really – it even began. Additionally, the ending of this novel wraps up a little too quickly and a lot too neatly precisely because of the presence of these paranormal elements. It was a satisfying ending in every way possible, but I wish I hadn’t felt so confused while reading it. Quinn offers no explanation, which almost makes her already creepy story even creepier, but it also grates, just a little.
Obviously, the good outweighs the bad with this piece. Quinn’s writing is beautiful, atmospheric, and utterly gripping, just as her story and characters are. It’s always jarring, though, to reach the end of a novel and remain nearly as confused as you were at its beginning, which is perhaps why I cannot bring myself to rate this book any higher. Yet, you can bet I’ll be watching eagerly for Quinn’s sophomore novel; the bolder the better.