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A Thousand Pieces of You

Review

A Thousand Pieces of You

Imagine: the power to travel between all possible universes in the palm of your hand. It’s a power almost too mighty to control, and it can even have deadly consequences. This is what Marguerite Caine painfully learns the day her dad is murdered, and the prime suspect, her dad’s assistant and close companion Paul, flees into another dimension with a traveling device called the Firebird that Marguerite’s parents worked together to create. Immediately giving chase, Marguerite --- together with Theo, another one of her parents’ grad student assistants and her flirtatious friend ---  gets her hands on older Firebird prototypes and follows Paul through the multiverse. As they cross dimensions and inhabit other versions of themselves, Marguerite slowly learns that life can take many possible paths, people can change entirely and not at all and the megalomaniac tech corporation that’s been sponsoring her parents’ work has a more far-reaching grasp than she could ever predict. Soon Marguerite becomes thrown into the center of an interdimensional maelstrom where she must fight to protect her family, and she must decide what the truth is and who she truly loves.

I must admit, I’m not quite sure where to begin. This book made me think, and think of many, many things --- good, bad and in between. Because on one hand, I honestly enjoyed the book quite a lot, and with its crisp, engaging pace, I read in it one sitting. However, I also found the book to be significantly inconsistent. And looming over these observations and opinions is the behemoth of the multiverse theory, which is a good place to begin.

I credit Gray for handling an immense scientific theory well, considering it’s such a daunting task. However, at times I felt like she did not acknowledge the full depth of the true scientific theory. I’ll avoid getting into a quantum physics lecture, here, but in essence, the multiverse theory states that there exists an overarching premium dimension in which there are infinite universes where every possible outcome has happened. And the theory means it when it says every possible outcome.

There’s a universe for every decision a single human could choose in every major and minute choice that happens in their life. Sounds overwhelming? Imagine applying that to every human to ever exist --- including the people that exist in other dimensions that aren’t ours. It’s utterly mind-blowing, and I completely understand why Gray chose to scale down --- way down --- on giving recognition to the extent of the theory. However, I feel like she scaled down so much that the theory was unfairly simplified. I really appreciated that throughout the book, Gray would mention minutiae of the theory even if it wasn’t relevant again and only appeared for a couple of sentences, but I wish she had done it for larger ideas, too.

I also think it would have been worth mentioning that the multiverse theory includes many universes where the human race doesn’t exist, which would have provided another facet to enrich the story and provide possible short conflicts. For instance, Marguerite and Theo (and Paul, for that matter) would have had to set their Firebirds to ensure they didn’t end up in a dimension where humanity didn’t exist.

I also felt that the three main characters ended up in some universes that were far too convenient.  It was never made explicitly clear how the Firebird pinpointed dimensions to jump into, and I found it terribly convenient that they always ended up in dimensions where things weren’t that much different than the home base dimension (assumed to be reality as it is known to the reader). There were a few other points where the science or technology wasn’t made clear to the reader, and that was either because it wasn’t fully specified in the text, or it was pushed aside in favor of the human elements and the love triangle. 

The reason I go into so much detail about the scientific theory is that Gray is inarguably a talented writer, and by cutting out much of the science to focus on romance, it seemed she was subliminally saying to readers that science was too complicated to understand, and they should just have a love triangle instead because that’s easy to get. And it made me angry because teen readers are much more brilliant than I think they sometimes get credited for, and since Gray is such a gifted writer, I have no doubt that she would have been able to add more science and keep the human elements as strong as they were.

 However, I must say that I was very intrigued by Gray’s idea that the consciences of the characters could inhabit the body of their other versions. Usually, when versions meet across dimensions, they remain separate and interact with each other.  I thought that making the body from one dimension the vehicle for the original character was unique and successful, and it gave way to nuances to the characters throughout the story.

A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU is provocative, vivid, and will have readers burning through pages, and when all the pieces fall in place, they will be left with a greatly satisfying read.

Gray is an adept character builder --- I was invested in everyone even when they changed across dimensions, and that takes talent. Everyone was distinct and proactive, and I cared about what happened to them on the first page. There were minor discrepancies, but they were forgivable --- the only one I remember is one time, on one page, Marguerite said, “I will never let a boy make me do something stupid again,” and then she proceeded to do just that on the next page. Realistic, but still a little irritating. And though I said the different dimensions seemed like easy choices, they were well-built and researched (especially the Tsarist Russia one). I felt just as immersed as the characters were, and I was always a little sad when the time came to leave.

The only other moment I became disappointed with the characters was when Marguerite told other versions of the people she knew (like her father and Paul in Tsarist Russia) the truth about what was going on with her, and it wasn’t her dimension’s version whose conscience was in control. And these other versions believed her, without thinking her crazy whatsoever (really shocking given the time period). I didn’t buy that at all. Yes, Paul (the real one) mentioned something about all versions being linked across dimensions by a soul or destiny, but as cool as that is, I did not believe that these versions of her dad and Paul didn’t question anything when this girl told them she was from another dimension. I don’t think love is strong enough to eradicate all traces of skepticism, especially across the universes. 

Now despite everything I’m saying, I cannot stress enough that I really liked this book. I do think it is fantastic that Gray chose a less mainstream scientific theory and used it as the baseline in the book. And her prose is a joy to read --- especially her dialogue, which somehow manages to flow and crackle at the same time. The story is unique and a romping good time to read, and though the balance between the science and the human/romantic elements isn’t quite equal, what is on the page is intense and enthralling enough to keep the story not just floating but swimming confidently. Hardcore science buffs might find themselves frustrated at points, but many fans of the genre will be delighted.A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU is provocative, vivid, and will have readers burning through pages, and when all the pieces fall in place, they will be left with a greatly satisfying read.

Reviewed by Corinne Fox on October 3, 2014

A Thousand Pieces of You
(Firebird #1)
by Claudia Gray

  • Publication Date: November 4, 2014
  • Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult 13+
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: HarperTeen
  • ISBN-10: 0062278967
  • ISBN-13: 9780062278968