I love receiving e-mails from students—not the “Is this due tomorrow?” or “Why do I have a zero in PowerSchool?” e-mails—but the ones that are written bleary-eyed, late at night (or sometimes early in the morning) from students who have just finished a book. Recently, Alyssa, one of my Advanced Composition juniors e-mailed me at 10:30pm after finishing Missing Pieces. She wrote:
“Wow, I just finished the book and I am completely shocked! Was definitely not expecting…[Can’t put this in because I don’t want to spoil it!]…I am extremely happy the way it ended! This was most certainly one of my favorite books that I read this year and if any of my friends ask for a recommendation I would without a doubt recommend it.”
As a teacher, finding a book students can connect with is a victory! But in this, case the victory was even sweeter. I grew up with Meredith Tate, the author of Missing Pieces, and even as children playing in the sandbox at our tiny four-classroom elementary school, Meredith knew how to weave a story.
Missing Pieces is the story of Tracey (Trace) and Piren, two best friends growing up in a dystopian world where they are matched with their spouses at six years old based on genetic compatibility. Despite Trace and Piren’s undeniable friendship and eventual attraction, they are paired with different partners. It is a fight between fate and free will.
While the plot might sound generic, resembling the many dystopian romances novels we’ve seen lately, Meredith succeeds in weaving together a distinctly unique story. Trace and Piren are flawed and frustrating and real. They live in a world of messy mistakes. As a social worker, Meredith doesn’t skirt around issues of alcoholism and abuse—instead she confronts them head-on, addressing the harsh, debilitating nature of addiction. I love that this book doesn’t cleanly fit into any distinct genre—it’s a romance, but it isn’t mawkish; it’s categorized as “new adult” but it begins when the protagonist is 14 years old; it’s dystopian yet it distinctly resembles modern society. Despite the numerous questions posed throughout the book (including those in the excerpt below), we learn that life is a series of difficult decisions; it’s the pure beauty of this rawness that makes this book relevant to teenagers.
“What if the one you’re supposed to be with, and the one you want to be with, are two different people? My entire life was mapped out for me before I was born. Is my only choice to silently follow the course already plotted? To blindly accept my future and walk that trail until I die? To smile and pretend everything is okay and I’m happy and in love with my Partner when I’m spiraling downward and drowning in my loneliness? I’m drowning, like in my childhood nightmares. Only this isn’t a nightmare; I can’t wake up from this life.”