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Book Review

Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Jade, a high school junior, lives in a poor, black neighborhood in Portland, Oregon. She is a good student and creates unique works of art by turning everyday objects into collages. While she’s not anxious to leave her best friend, Lee Lee, and her neighborhood school, Jade’s mom insists she accept a scholarship to a prestigious academy across town. St. Francis High offers opportunities she would never have otherwise, including the possibility of traveling abroad to be involved in a service project. Jade hates that she’s always being labeled “at risk” and given “opportunities.” She loves the idea of helping someone else for a change.

When the St. Francis counselor calls Jade in for a meeting, she’s sure she’ll be invited on the trip. Instead, the counselor tells her about a mentoring program for African American girls called Woman to Woman. Mentors and mentees will visit museums and attend concerts throughout the city as well as meet for meals and discussions. Jade is disappointed and only enrolls in the program because it will provide college scholarship opportunities.

Jade’s mentor, Maxine, fails to show up at the first Woman to Woman meeting. The college student comes to Jade’s house later to apologize, but Maxine continues to cut out on their times together whenever her deadbeat boyfriend calls. Maxine comes from an affluent black family, and her behavior shows Jade she doesn’t understand the plight of poor black teens. Jade continues to attend Woman to Woman meetings with Maxine, where mentors urge the young women to stand up for themselves and make their voices heard.

Jade meets Sam on the city bus to St. Francis High. Sam comes from a poorer white neighborhood and has lived with her grandparents since her mother abandoned her. Sam and Jade become good friends and spend time at each other’s homes, although Sam’s grandparents are nervous about letting her visit Jade’s dangerous black neighborhood. Sam fails to see or acknowledge the racial prejudice Jade often encounters. St. Francis has a few other black students, but most come from wealthy families. Without knowing where Jade or Sam reside, one black girl rants about how depressed she’d be if she had to live in a dangerous ghetto like Northeast Portland.

Jade still hopes for an invitation to attend the spring break service trip. When she learns Sam has been invited to serve in Costa Rica, she feels bitter. Once again, the combination of her color and financial status has made others believe she needs a handout and can’t assist others. Sam thinks Jade blames race for everything that goes wrong in her life. They fight, and Jade wonders if the friendship is worth saving.

After a rocky beginning, Maxine and Jade talk through some of their differences. Jade tells Maxine her words about self-respect don’t go very far when she sees Maxine cowering to her boyfriend. She also helps Maxine see that all young black women don’t have the same opportunities due to different financial backgrounds. They begin to relate to one another better, and Maxine drops her boyfriend for good.

Maxine introduces Jade to some of her friends and family members. Maxine’s sister, Mia, owns an art gallery, and Jade is anxious to learn what it takes to manage this business. She speaks up and asks Mia to do a presentation for a Woman to Woman gathering. Jade continues to practice speaking up for herself and respectfully but passionately tells her school counselor how she feels about being passed over for the Costa Rica trip.

Jade and her family hear a devastating news report about a black girl beaten by police at a party. The 15-year-old’s name is Natasha Ramsey. For Jade, the tragedy is just another reminder of the way skin color and poverty impact girls like her.

Jade counts the days until the Woman to Woman meeting at the art gallery. She wonders if there might be an internship available for someone like her, and Maxine urges her to use her voice and ask Mia. Mia says she does have two paid internships and would be happy to talk to Jade about them. Jade is also invited to contribute some of her collage art to a fundraiser.

People praise her work at the event, and Jade feels more hopeful than ever that good things may be in store for her. Jade’s old friend, Lee Lee, shows Jade a poem she’s written about Natasha Ramsey. Jade has been working on a collage featuring unsung black heroes like Lewis and Clark’s guide, York. The girls are inspired to plan a benefit gala for Natasha and her family. When they ask Mia, she agrees to host the event at her gallery.

Jade confronts Sam and admits she’s hurt by Sam’s failure to acknowledge the racism all around them. She and Sam talk things through and repair their friendship. Jade’s counselor apologizes for overlooking her and helps promote the benefit by giving extra credit to any students who attend. He also tells Jade he’ll save her a spot for the next spring break trip. The gala goes off beautifully, and Jade continues to discover she has power when she respectfully speaks up for herself and others.

Christian Beliefs

One lone girl in Jade’s mentoring group says she’s saving herself for marriage and that Jesus is her boyfriend right now. After a bus driver gives a woman a free ride, she thanks the driver by saying Jesus loves him. Jade’s mom sometimes listens to gospel music about God’s grace and mercy while she’s cooking or cleaning. Jade prays for Natasha Ramsey and her family. Sam prays nightly for her brother in the Army.

Other Belief Systems

One character named E.J. says prayer won’t do any good and is nothing but a poor man’s drug. He says it isn’t God they need to be talking to, but people with power like the mayor or the governor.

Authority Roles

Maxine initially allows her bad dating relationship and misunderstandings about poverty to keep her from mentoring effectively. She learns to be more aware and ultimately provides support and encouragement for her mentee. Mom is skeptical of Maxine at first, fearing the wealthy college girl will hurt her daughter or monopolize Jade’s affection.

Mom learns to appreciate the way Maxine contributes to Jade’s life in ways she can’t. She teaches Maxine some things she knows, like how to cook soul food. Dad lives with his girlfriend and gives Jade a camera for her birthday when she visits him. Sam’s grandparents are raising Sam since her mom dropped her off at their house and said she didn’t want to be a mother anymore.


The Lord’s name is used in vain a handful of times. The word a-- also appears. Jade talks about the pervasive violence against unarmed black men and women in her community. She says women are always being warned to be careful, but no one is telling men to stop killing, raping and kidnapping them.


Jade’s dad lives with his girlfriend. Men and boys ogle Jade, make suggestive remarks and discuss her body parts including her butt and breasts. A group of boys in a restaurant rates her as a “5” loudly enough for her to hear. One tries to hit on her afterward.

When she ignores him, he tells her she’s fat and calls her derogatory names (which do not appear in the text). Maxine’s friends talk about a play called The Vagina Monologues and how it covers topics like love, relationships, sex, periods and rape. One of Jade’s classmates disrespects a teacher by asking if she’s in a bad mood because of PMS or not “getting laid” the previous night.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Theft: Jade’s mother was fired from her hospital housekeeping job for stealing supplies, such as snacks and lotions. Jade sneaks food from one of the Woman to Woman events to take home to her family. She’s learned how to do this stealthily by watching her mom.

Drugs/Alcohol: Adults drink at a party. A drunken man hits on Jade. Maxine’s boyfriend is fired for showing up high at work several times.

Lying: Jade lies to her mom and Maxine to avoid going to her mentoring meetings.

Racism/prejudice: This book explores racism from many different angles, and shows it, even examples of unintentional racism, such as Jade not being invited to attend the service trip.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

14 to 18


Renee Watson






Record Label



Bloomsbury Children’s Books, a registered trademark of Bloomsbury Publishing


On Video

Year Published



Newbury Medal of Honor, 2018; Chicago Public Library Best Books for Teens, 2017; Josette Frank Award, 2018; and others


We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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