Tuesday 16 August 2022

All the Pieces of Me {Book Review}

All the Pieces of Me tells the story of a young autistic girl named Tally who is thirteen years old and in Year 9 at secondary school. Tally has a friend, Layla, who is one of the popular girls at school, but Layla announces that she is moving away, leaving Tally to feel on the edge of the group. She finds it difficult to know what to do in order to be accepted and included; she thinks she should feel lucky to still be a part of the group but somehow she still feels lonely.
Yellow book cover with title All the pieces of me in blue.

Tally tries hard to fit in; sometimes too hard. Eventually, with the help of some other key characters in the book, she learns how to be true to herself and how to express her feelings through song writing. Tally struggles with many aspects of school and gradually begins spending more time at a stables where an alternative education programme takes place. There's a lot of talk about school anxiety and Tally mentions how she doesn't like the term "school refusal":

Some people call this school refusal. Personally, I do not like that term as it makes me feel like I’m being accused of making a choice to not want to go to school, which of course is not the case. When it’s at its worst, my brain and body actually go into shutdown and don’t allow me to leave the house or even my bed in some cases. So of course it’s not a choice in any way, because who would choose that?
Towards the end of the book there are some positive changes made and a great summary of how good schools could be if autistic people were able to design them...

News report: Tally turns into a tiger

Well, that felt good. Strange, and exhausting, but good. When I first started this school, I used to wear a tiger mask a lot of the time at home. But I never wore it at school. I wore a different mask, the one of the "perfect kid" trying to fit in. Today, I peeled off that mask, and it turns out there’s another tiger underneath– a real one this time. I wonder if it’s been there all along, just waiting to emerge and be heard and seen. Imagine if everyone at school - teachers and kids - spent a week as an autistic person.

They would soon stop seeing us as "different" and would start to realise how much we have to endure each day – from the noise and busyness, to the pressure to conform and the endless rules… it’s so much to deal with.
If autistic people designed schools, just imagine how amazing they would be…

Although the book mostly focuses on school life and struggles, it also covers the fact that Tally lives at home with her mum, dad and older sister. The family are aware that Tally has been diagnosed with the Pathlogical Demand Avoidance profile of autism, and relationships at home are also described. Some of the ways in which other family members have learned to help her are discussed throughout the book, along with descriptions of difficult meltdown moments:
The room is still for a moment as everyone holds their breath, waiting to see what will happen next. Tally waits too. If anyone was ever interested enough to ask, she would have told them that this is almost the worst part of a situation like this. The seconds before she knows how her head is going to react to the myriad of emotions that are swirling around her brain. The second before she knows what response she’s going to have, in order to keep herself safe.
Maybe she’ll freeze up, like she did in the hallway earlier. That often happens when she’s confused and not sure what she’s done wrong. Or perhaps her body will protect her by putting her into fight mode. Her muscles will tense, and her mouth will open and she’ll be a whirlwind of chaos and noise before collapsing in an exhausted heap on the floor. That can happen when she’s scared and anxious.
All the Pieces of Me is the fourth book jointly written by Libby Scott and Rebecca Westcott, and is part of a series that includes Ways to be Me, Can You See Me? and Do You Know Me? All these novels include diary entries written by Libby, ensuring that authentic situations and experiences are included in the stories. For more info on the other books in this series please click the image below:

All the Pieces of Me covers many aspects of teenage life, such as friendships, anxiety, insecurities, social media, family interactions and difficulties with school. They are all seen through the viewpoint of an autistic individual and the writing conveys the extra challenges that some young people face at this already tricky time in their lives, especially those who are living with Pathological Demand Avoidance. All the Pieces of Me is available to order now from Amazon and I highly recommend this book for all ages to help further understanding of how others might be feeling.

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