by Hannah Barnaby
Published by Knopf
on February 16, 2016
Source: Finished copy for review from publisher
Synopsis from Goodreads: Sometimes bad things happen, and we are not the same when they are over. For months, Tallie McGovern has been coping with the death of her older brother the only way she knows how: by smiling bravely and pretending that she's okay. She’s managed to fool her friends, her parents, and her teachers so far, yet she can’t even say his name out loud: “N—” is as far as she can go. But when Tallie comes across a letter in the mail, it only takes two words to crack the careful façade she’s built around herself: ORGAN DONOR. Two words that had apparently been checked off on her brother’s driver’s license; two words that her parents knew about—and never confided to her. All at once, everything Tallie thought she understood about her brother’s death feels like a lie. And although a part of her knows he’s gone forever, another part of her wonders if finding the letter might be a sign. That if she can just track down the people on the other end of those two words, it might somehow bring him back.
My take: First, I have a few overall thoughts about this subgenre of contemporary YA. Some of the Parts is the sixth (at least!) YA book about organ donation to come out in the past year or so. I haven't read them all, but Some of the Parts worked much better for me than, for instance, Things We Know By Heart, which tried to bring a creepy (to me!) love-after-loss romance into the mix, and while this approach may have worked in the film Return to Me (haven't seen it) I remained skeptical and somewhat weirded out.
So, in thinking about the several YA organ donation books I've read, I realized that they combine at least two tried-and-true YA tropes: the grief book + the quest book. Because while grief books are very moving, anyone who's been through a grieving process knows that it's often very ... internal. Solitary. And sad. So I can see the need for the quest: adding that element keeps things moving along and gives them more of a purpose.
Okay, on to the book at hand. After the death of Tallie's older brother, she feels stuck. Stuck with her guilt and grief, stuck with her withdrawn parents, stuck in a life she no longer recognizes. I thought that Some of the Parts did a great job portraying the grieving experience: the awkward reactions of others, the way you feel that you've gone through something that will make you feel forever different and very alone.
Then there's a boy. A boy who, in a very coincidental fashion, offers Tallie just what she needs: a distraction, a co-conspirator, and an important resource (that last part was the big coincidence). I wouldn't call their relationship a true romance, but they have enough of a connection that if you need romance in your books I think you'll be satisfied.
Onto the quest: I was skeptical at first, but I ended up really liking this part of the story. The sneaky, crafty things that Tallie did reminded me so much of the way my scheming sixteen year-old self would have acted that I laughed out loud. The book had a minor subplot about her brother's girlfriend that could have been predictable, but took a more unexpected turn.
Overall, I really enjoyed Some of the Parts. I thought that the book offered up a moving account of the different ways people process grief and loss.