The Million Pieces of Neena Gill by Emma Smith-Barton

The Million Pieces of Neena Gill by Emma Smith-Barton front cover

The Million Pieces of Neena Gill by Emma Smith-Barton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Neena Gill’s brother has disappeared without a trace and it’s taken a toll on her family. They’re all just trying to get through another day without him, and nobody can quite do it without falling apart a little bit more. Neena’s schoolwork, her friends, and her relationships are all struggling, and her mental health is taking the toll. And, as is so often the way, she must reach the bottom before we can set out again for the top…

The Million Pieces of Neena Gill is an immensely confident YA debut and one which touches on some very powerful issues without ever being ‘I am touching on some important issues, ask me how I do that’ in the process. There’s a lot here to love, really, and much of it centres on the inherent power of the novel. Smith-Barton writes with power and heart and feeling, and sometimes she is very, very devastating. Though there were a flew slight, sticky elements in the area of characterization and a few plot moments that didn’t quite work for me, Smith-Barton’s writing allows her to get away with it. This is a strong, heartfelt, and occasionally rather brilliant book.

I think it’s important to note that The Million Pieces of Neena Gill has a very valuable afterword which includes a personal note from Smith-Barton on the creative background of the text, alongside a list of resources for people to use if they recognise any of the symptoms or experiences in the story. I believe a lot in books that use the roundness of themselves for good; we presume so much in story to help us that sometimes we forget that story is precisely that. Fictional. Otherworldly. Imagined. But a book has space for material of this nature, material to bookend and buttress and bolster the story, and it should be used. Particularly in books like this. And when it’s well done – as it is here – it’s important to recognise and applaud that.

Finally, I think it’s worthwhile noting that this isn’t an easy book. I am increasingly drawn to books about humans. People that make mistakes. People that are messy and not particularly perfect and not paragons. Neena makes bad choices. She makes poor choices. But I rooted for her. So much. And when she faced her crisis point; a moment written with some high, exquisite clarity, I felt it. Every inch of it. And that is enough to make me ignore the occasional stickiness because moments like that tell me this is an author to watch.

My thanks to the publisher for a review copy.

View all my reviews

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