Pieces of Georgia
Jen Bryant

Thirteen-year-old Georgia McCoy finds herself spending a lot of time wondering these days … wondering how she became labeled “at-risk”—she was sure she hadn’t done anything. Wondering how on Earth she’s ever going to fill the journal her counselor gifted her, after all, her life was pathetically boring. Wondering what’s going on in her best friend Tiffany’s head, but mostly wondering who would send her a year’s membership to the local art museum for her birthday. After her artist mother died, she had no other family, except her father, and everything about art made him even more distant from her. Glimpse into Georgia’s life through her journal entries and watch as she begins to make sense of things and finds answers to her wonderings in Pieces of Georgia, a novel by Jen Bryant.

The book Pieces of Georgia is written in a very interesting manner. The entire book contains no actual dialogue between characters or actual interactions between them; rather the story takes place through the details and descriptions that is Georgia McCoy’s journal. As a reader, you feel as though you have just found a young girl’s diary and are getting a glimpse into her life. The book starts off as Georgia’s first journal entry. She was given a red leather journal by her guidance counselor to write down her thoughts, feelings, and perhaps anything she may want to say to her deceased mother. From the very beginning, you feel the disconnection of Georgia from this journal; she starts it because it is an obligation. She even thinks it’s a little strange to write things to her dead mom; after all it isn’t like she’s ever going to answer. As the book continues, however, Georgia begins to share more and become more at ease in making her entries, sharing small, yet significant details about her life and the things she observes. As Georgia opens up, the reader also feels more connected to her. At the beginning of the story, Georgia receives a letter informing her that she has been given a year’s membership to the local art museum. Georgia is gifted in art and is excited about the prospect of being able to go to the museum as often as she likes, but feels her father will be upset about it. Georgia’s mother was also an artist and anything remotely related to art seems to distance her quiet father even more. The even bigger problem with the membership is that it is signed anonymous. Georgia’s mother’s family disowned her mother long ago when she married Georgia’s orphaned father—virtually she has no family. This begins the mystery of the book. Georgia spends a lot of time making observations of the irony of things around her, because she is an artist, she sometimes sees things in a different light giving the book even more dimension and adding to the interest of this introverted girl’s life. In the middle of the book, Georgia’s typically overactive best friend, Tiffany, begins distancing herself and going through behavioral changes that have Georgia worried. We find out the Tiffany is taking prescription drugs to try to get a high and stay ahead. In the end, the friends make up, Georgia is given a shot at a special art program, finds out who sent her the museum membership, and as she begins coping with her mother’s death through her art and journaling, we see a parallel with her father who also begins to open up and cope with his wife’s death. The relationship between Georgia and her father is precious and tender as you can see it grow and unfold in a turn of events and leaves you not only feeling as though Georgia is your friend, but also loving her father. The ending is a typical happily ever after ending, which makes it a perfect read for young adults.

I was immediately drawn into this story because it had some very direct correlations to my own life growing up. One of Georgia’s biggest complaints is the she was put on the at-risk students list at school. As far as she could tell, she had done nothing to warrant this label, she was the victim of unfortunate and uncontrollable circumstances and she felt as though she was being unfairly lumped into a group. We begin to see how right-on Georgia’s perception of the world is as she points out numerous students who participate in risky behaviors and are considered stand-up students simply because their background is picture perfect. I too, would have been considered an “at-risk” student. My parents are divorced, my father is out of the picture and is an alcoholic and drug addict and been in and out of prison several times. I lived in a single-parent home for several years until my mom remarried sometime in middle school. I had done nothing wrong, but was caught in the middle of circumstances outside of my control. I hated when people made me out to be something I was not, when in fact there were plenty of kids all around me who desperately needed help and nobody noticed them because on the outside things were put together the ‘right’ way. I fell in love with Georgia’s character from the moment I picked up the book because I felt for her; I rooted for her the entire book.

This book would be an excellent book for the modern age we live in when so many students carry secrets of dysfunctional family lives with them. I believe many students would be capable of relating to Georgia even if their circumstances were not the same. Because the story is about a girl coming to discover herself, most teenagers can relate to this story. Most of middle school and high school is spent thinking and wondering and observing like Georgia did. In the end, when you find who you are, you finally feel as though you have dealt with something and have come out on the up side. I think a great activity to use with this book would be to give each student a journal. Require the students to write in it each day and give them the option of sharing their entries with the instructor or the class. Challenge students to write down their observations and take note and try to see the world in a different way. When the students have finished the book, have them read their journals and write a reflective paper on what they think they learned (about themselves or about life in general) from their own journal entries. - AM