Girl In Pieces is a remarkable narrative. Beautifully lyrical, yet dark and confronting, rarely seen in young adult novels. I commend Kathleen for her courage, composure and her ability to create a character who readers will see themselves within. Charlie's narrative was compelling and I reached out to debut author Kathleen Glasgow about Charlie, her own personal journey and portraying addiction, mental illness and toxic relationships with realism for the teen audience. Thanks for joining me Kathleen and you can read my review for Girl In Pieces here.
Charlie's narrative is confronting but ultimately hopeful and is an extension of your own experiences. For those yet to read Girl In Pieces, can you share your own experience and what inspired you to tell Charlie's story?
From fourteen to my early twenties, I was a a self harmer. I hurt myself because I didn't know how to manage my emotions or depression. I hid my scars for a very long, long time. One day, much later, on my way to work, I saw a girl on the bus with fresh scars on her arms. She was about the age I was when I first started cutting. I let her get off the bus without talking to her and I shouldn't have. Girl in Pieces is my letter to that girl, and to any kid who is harming, or feels alone, or doesn't have a voice.Girl In Pieces is an incredibly courageous debut novel that also explores addiction. Why do you think it's important for authors to explore mental health and addiction realistically for the teen audience?
Depression, mental health, addiction, assault, it's a crime to think they don't exist for teens or that teens aren't able to handle discussing these issues. How do you think it feels to be fifteen, and the victim of sexual assault, but your school library isn't allowed to stock a novel that might help you through your experience? That's like telling you that you, and your experiences, don't matter. Someone is trying to make you invisible. The realistic side is: you don't just get better because you talk to a doctor, or take a pill. Those things can help, but there's a lot of other work that needs to be done for you to reach a good place, a place you can be safe. You need nonjudgemental friends, you need people who can listen, you need to read books that offer glimmers of hope.
One of the bravest aspects for me was the realism, often when young adult authors tend to romanticise mental illness. Charlie's relationship with Riley was interesting. Do you think with young adult contemporary reads, authors should be more aware of creating romantic interests for characters struggling with mental illness and what should they perhaps be mindful of?
Charlie was always going to fall for Riley. Charlie was always going to fall for someone who picked her, who made her feel special, because she was aching to be seen, to be recognized. You can see this earlier with Ellis. But Riley has his own struggles; it's not a healthy relationship, but it is a realistically portrayed unhealthy relationship between two unhealthy people. Even though Charlie has mental health issues, even though she is worried about her scars, she never stops wanting to be loved, to be touched, to feel pleasure. Just because you are suffering from mental illness does not mean you stop wanting touch, love, companionship, the feel of skin on skin. Even to just have someone hold your hand, just once, for five minutes, can sometimes be the difference between life and death.
With Charlie's narrative being so personal, I can imagine the emotion of revisiting your own experiences. Being a survivor, what does it mean for you to be able to reach teens who may also be currently experiencing feelings of misplacement?
It was difficult to revisit some dark feelings, to let them out of the box. They will never go away. I just know how to manage them now, through a lot of hard work. But I was committed to letting it all out for the book, because I think teens, anyone, really, struggling with harm or depression or loneliness, deserves to have that reality depicted honestly. And I can tell you one hundred million percent that receiving such beautiful, touching, lovely emails and messages from readers has made it all worth it.
Kathleen Glasgow lives in Tucson, Arizona. She likes Tyrion and Shireen, musty old paperbacks from used bookstores that have cats wandering the aisles, cheesecake, coffee, and the Isle of Skye.