By the age of 15, Zeke had been moved from one foster home to the next and finally to a group home, where he ran away. Homeless and tired, he breaks into a florist shop to have his life changed forever. The owners of the shop set Zeke up in a private residence for kids that need a chance and a change and he is given shelter and guidance in order to move forward with his life. It’s not easy, though, as his trauma runs deep, but when Zeke has Ethan for a roommate, things start to change.
Ethan has his own trauma and he has learned that being bisexual can get him killed. He vows to repress that side of himself, but living with Zeke doesn’t make that easy. He’s attracted to Zeke and wants so many things from Zeke, but only in the privacy of their room. No one can know because Ethan knows all too well that it’s not safe.
Ethan and Zeke form a band with their friends and skyrocket to fame and fortune. Zeke wants everything with Ethan, both in private and public, and being Ethan’s secret devastates him. The members of the band all have a lot of trauma that when not dealt with leads to alcohol and drug use as the band unravels. When Ethan finds success elsewhere, Zeke can’t seem to find his footing and stay sober. Deep down, Ethan knows he wants Zeke, but it may be too late as Zeke is headed for disaster.
There are a few general things I need to explain before I can tell you specifically about this book. Pieces of Us is labeled as a standalone and book one of the new Second Chance Sinners series. The author also has the Unexpected series that was first published in 2015 and this book connects back heavily to that series, with characters and plot lines that carry over. I have read only the first book in that series, Unlike Any Other, and I found way too much missing here to fully make the foundation of this book work for me, as I was constantly trying to figure things out that were connected to the other series.
The book itself is mostly a flashback. The prologue opens with Zeke at age 30, but then goes back 15 years and stays in Zeke and Ethan’s teenage years for about 70% of the book. From the blurb, I wasn’t expecting them to be so young for so much of the book, even though they all have lived a lot of life in those years. When I look at what this story is about overall, I do like it, but it was the style of writing and the execution of the book where I struggled.
After Zeke breaks into the flower shop, he meets people that will change his life. There are many characters introduced here, some from the previous series, and his life is fast tracked. He gets a place to live, academic testing, and a look into his past as well. He then rooms with Ethan and, since they both have to pick an activity they are good at, they wind up playing music together.
A lot has happened to both Zeke and Ethan and the other characters they become friends with. Ethan’s past, the part where his trauma comes from, is mentioned in only a few lines and there was no impact to it. The biggest issue is that most of the story is told and not shown. A lot happens in this book, things that were said to be devastating to the characters, but the storylines keep piling on one on top of the other and everything was moving at a lightning pace from one thing to the next without truly being grounded. The style of writing also kept me at a great distance from the characters and their story. I also felt that all of the adults that were supposed to be helping them didn’t address any of their trauma and were just pushing Zeke and Ethan forward without true regard for them, especially with their band contract, which read as predatory in nature.
The book ends on a cliffhanger and it should have had a hard-hitting impact, but it didn’t do that for me. I don’t think this author meshes with what I look for in a story, from the book not being a true standalone to the style of storytelling, and while I certainly struggled with this one, it may land better for another reader.