Book Review: The Half Life of Molly Pierce by Katrina Leno
You take it for granted. Waking up. Going to school, talking to your friends. Watching a show on television or reading a book or going out to lunch.
You take for granted going to sleep at night, getting up the next day, and remembering everything that happened to you before you closed your eyes.
You live and you remember.
Me, I live and I forget.
But now—now I am remembering.
For all of her seventeen years, Molly feels like she’s missed bits and pieces of her life. Now, she’s figuring out why. Now, she’s remembering her own secrets. And in doing so, Molly uncovers the separate life she seems to have led…and the love that she can’t let go.
The Half Life of Molly Pierce is a suspenseful, evocative psychological mystery about uncovering the secrets of our pasts, facing the unknowns of our futures, and accepting our whole selves
Molly Pierce loses chunks of time. She wakes up places and doesn’t know how she got there. And people keep talking to her in a way that clearly indicate that one day the pieces will come together and then she will understand what is happening, but that it is really important that she discovers it for herself.
One day, Molly comes across a motorcycle accident and she stays with the victim on the way to the hospital. Although to her he is a stranger, it becomes clear that he knows who she is. This moment leads to Molly starting to really unravel and begin to unpack the secrets of the parts of her she can’t seem to remember.
The Half Life of Molly Pierce is an extremely compelling read. As we dig deeper into Molly’s past we get some very stark and realistic looks at depression; there is very frank and authentic discussion about how hard it can be to even muster the energy to pick up a brush and comb in through your hair. And the fragmented way this story is told really serves to emphasize the fragmentation in emotion and personality that Molly is experiencing. The clues begin to unravel with a sense of urgency and leads to a climax of a reveal that is simultaneously intriguing and satisfying. At no point will most readers be surprised by what is happening to Molly (well, older readers who have seen enough movies), but they will enjoy the journey to the end reveal, which is twisty enough to catch you unawares. The what isn’t necessarily surprising (to me), but the details of it are in very rewarding ways.
I really appreciated the complexity of the relationships presented and how everyone had to really navigate an emotional and factual minefield as they allowed Molly the space to process what was happening to her at her own pace.
The writing style is unique – with lots of repetition and fragmentation – but it serves the plot and the pacing well. I thoroughly enjoyed this story and think that teen readers will as well. I don’t know that I would use it as a guidebook for having discussions about some of the mental health issues suggested inside the narrative with teens, particularly the dissociative disorders implied, but the representation of depression will resonate with many readers. This is Leno’s debut novel and I look forward to reading more from her, this is a really good read.
This would be a great readalike for psychological thriller fans, along with the upcoming Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn. For some additional titles on mental health issues, check out our previous list by Kim Baccellia here.You can also check out this very comprehensive list compiled by Stephanie Kuehn at YA Highway.
The Half Life of Molly Pierce received a starred review in the 5/05/2014 issue of Publisher’s Weekly. I highly recommend it. It will be released in July 2014 from HarperTeen. ISBN: 9780062231178.
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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