Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Pieces of Us by Margie Gelbwasser Interview and Book Review

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.

My Review

I always wanted to be a writer, and when I was seven I got my shot. My second grade teacher held a writing contest. I wrote this ten page story about a girl who was kidnapped, taken to an island, and tied to a coconut tree. She found a way to use the coconuts as weapons and escaped, against all odds! I didn’t win. The girl who won wrote about a talking strawberry, and her story was only 3 pages long. Talk about being robbed!

I recovered, continued to write, edited my high school and college literary magazines, wrote an adult multi-generational novel about a Russian-Jewish family, scrapped the novel but realized the part about the teens really came alive. So I started writing a YA book about a Russian-Jewish girl with an alcoholic mom that is now called INCONVENIENT. I then found an agent, and in a little less than two years landed a two-book deal with Flux. During all this, I got married and had an amazing son who I consider my good luck charm.

These days, I’m home with my son and between our music, library, Mommy and Me classes, and truck and lawn mower spottings, I’m working on my second novel. Like with the first book, there’s some Russian stuff and some Jersey stuff (Jersey makes for great settings—take that all of you who think Jersey is a smelly state and nothing more) but it’s really dark, edgy, and the culture is more background/setting than center stage.

I would like to introduce Margie Gelbwasser to A Diary Of A Book Addict. Thank you Margie for stopping by and sharing some wonderful insight into your new book Pieces Of Us that was just released on March 08, 2012 I have to say that after reading your book I was in tears and I could not write the review right away. I had to sit and rethink some things I read and I went back and re-read some things to. I absolutely loved the characters and I applaud you for being so open and honest with the youth of today. Thank you for sharing two families struggles with abuse and being bullied and self-esteem issues.

What made you decide to write Pieces Of Us?
Originally, I just heard Katie's voice. I knew she went away for the summers to escape her current life. I thought about what she was escaping, what happened to her, and slowly the story began to take shape. Once I saw the key elements, I was reminded of some difficult times I had in high school and college where some people spread rumors about me. I know today teens have it much worse, and I wanted to show that—how technology escalates bullying these days and how it affects everyone.
Did any of the characters remind you of anyone you were close to?
Not of people I was close to, but I knew guys like Alex as a teen. I dated guys like Alex—those who put a girl's virginity on a pedestal, those who put women in little boxes. The Alex and Kyle storyline was loosely based on something I witnessed.

Why did Ethan and Chris do that stuff to Katie? Was it similar to hazing?
I believe both of them wanted to feel powerful and in control. Here are two, popular jocks who seem to have everything, who the school and teachers worship. They wanted to assert their power, show who was on top. When dealing with abuse—sexual or otherwise—I believe it all comes down to power and feeling like you're superior to the victim.

Can you tell us a little background about the parents?
I am really curious to find out about Katie and Julie’s mother with her whole casualness about her and Katie’s relationship and then her relationship in the end with Julie. I read some reviews where people discussed the implausibility of a mother like Katie's and Julie's. She is awful, yes. In the minority? Yes. But implausible? No. I was very lucky to have caring parents. I had friends who were not so lucky. I had known a few girls in high school who had mothers like Katie's. The kind of mother who constantly told her daughter she needed to lose weight, who put her daughter down all the time, who called her ugly, who called her daughter a slut for kissing someone, who hit her kids. So, there are parents like that. This would have been a very different story with supportive parents. Most of the incidents in this book would not have happened. Sadly, there are families like this. I don't know all the reasons Julie and Katie's mom turned out the way she did, but somewhere in her life she decided that being beautiful was the key to happiness, that a “real” man was not a pushover in the least and, in fact, the other extreme. I don't believe she got that from her own parents as Julie and Katie's grandparents are everything the mother is not, but somewhere along the way Katie and Julie's mom got lost and turned into a selfish, unkind person. As for Kyle and Alex's mother, I think a part of her thought that she did what she did to put food on the table and help her kids. Another part of her knows she let them down and is ashamed. And yet another part is not aware at all of the repercussions of her actions until it's too late.

What was wrong with Julie in the end to make her change the way she was?
Julie always wanted approval from her mother and let this cloud everything. She saw the world in black and white, blamed Katie for things that were her fault and weren't. She chooses to block out the truth if it can elevate her in her mother's eyes.

What were Alex’s true feelings in the end for Katie?
I think he loved her and this scared him. I feel she changed him. But by change I don't mean he's a better person. I don't know what he is. He has so much hate and rage, that the good that Katie put into his soul, is marred by the bad. If Alex was the type of guy who was open to therapy, it would help him. I don't think he's that kind of guy and therefore not sure what will happen to him. But I DO believe that he won't treat people like he did Katie and the other girls ever again. I don't think he'll be into monogamy or anything, but whether he knows why or not, he will act differently.

What were Kyle’s true feelings in the end for Katie?
I think he cares about her very much. At the very least, the two will be friends and each other's savior. The two of them truly understand what the other went through. If they decide to pursue a romantic relationship it won't be for a long time. I think they both need to heal a lot first.

7 rapid fire questions
1. Soda or Juice? Diet soda
2. Chocolate or peanut butter? Chocolate dipped in peanut butter. Yum!
3. Favorite color? Red. Wearing it now, actually. :-)
4. Favorite getaway? A cruise. I LOVE them!
5. Favorite Author? So many! Amy Tan, Maeve Binchy, Stephen King
6. Gum or Tic Tacs? Definitely gum. Tic Tac disappear too quickly.
7. Favorite place to write? Panera or Starbucks

Margie, thank you for stopping by and sharing a little extra with us on Pieces of Us. One more question for you. In the end of the book you share places where kids can get help. What would you say to someone who is afraid of getting help? Please talk to someone. If you are too scared to discuss what's happening in person, there are online and phone hotlines and counselors available. Staying silent is a lot worse. A bully and abuser will tell you things will get worse if you speak up, but they will get worse with silence as well. Keeping a victim silent is a bully's leverage. They bank on it. Breaking the silence is the first step to getting help.

Thanks again from A Diary Of A Book Addict

Places you can find Margie Gelbwasser
Facebook for Inconvenient
Facebook for Pieces of Us
Twitter @MargieGelb

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