Contemporary Mystery YA Young Adult

The Pieces of Ourselves by Maggie Harcourt

“You know why it’s called bipolar disorder?” […] “It’s because if I were a compass, there’d be no east and no west. No sunrise or sunset. Just me, in the dark, with my needle spinning from pole to pole. And both poles are just as hostile, and both poles can kill you.”

Bookies, this YA contemporary has got some of the best mental health representation I’ve read to date! The story is all about Flora, who “doesn’t do people” since that incident during exams when her brain, stuck in overdrive, suddenly made her world go up in a flurry of exam pages. What followed was a therapist and medication and a bipolar II diagnosis. Oh, and in the fallout, none of her friends stuck around.

If you’ve gone through a mental health crisis or any health issue really, then you’ll know, just like Flora, how lonely that can be. Yes, Flora “doesn’t do people,” but she’s also got first-hand experience when it comes to people abandoning her. It makes Flora, her struggles (such as figuring out if the things she loved pre-diagnosis, like history, were just part of a manic episode) and her journey, utterly relatable.

Now post-incident, Flora lives with her brother and his boyfriend on the country hotel estate, where she works as part of the housekeeping staff. The staff is trained to disappear into the background, which is right up Flora’s alley. When Hal appears at the hotel and Flora is tasked to assist him with his WWI historical research into the mystery of a missing soldier, the entire situation is not only outside her comfort zone, but pretty much her worst nightmare… until, well, it’s not.

As Hal and Flora dive into the love, secrets, and lies surrounding the soldier, Flora begins to discover an entirely new piece of herself.

Whether you’re looking for something for the heart — and aren’t we all! — a mystery, or a contemporary read that has the power to transport you to another time, The Pieces of Ourselves has it all! ⭐️5 stars!

And, you can dive right in — excerpt below! ⬇

The Pieces of Ourselves by Maggie Harcourt – Excerpt

I have picked the worst possible moment to be standing on the pavement outside the village shop: the exact moment the bus to the sixth-form college goes past on its last morning run of the term.

If only I hadn’t agreed to pick up my brother’s parcel from the post office counter before work. 

If only Mr Parkins and his stupid package to Australia hadn’t been ahead of me in the queue.

If only I hadn’t told my friend Mira that I’d meet her and we could walk back up to the hotel to start our housekeeping shifts together.

If. Only.

But here I am, and here’s the bus, and as it stops to let Mr Parkins cross the road with agonizing slowness, every single face behind the bus windows turns, one by one, to look at me – and I am fixed to the spot as firmly and definitively as if someone had driven iron spikes through my shoes.

Everything stops: time, my heart, the movement of the Earth through space. Everything. I am trapped in this moment, pinned like a butterfly on a board.

Me on one side of the window; the people I used to go to school with, the people I used to know, to be one of – the people I used to be friends with – staring at me from the other.

And then Mr Parkins has made it to the other side of the street and, just like that, the world is moving again and the bus is gone. I step off the pavement to watch it disappear from view between the hedges and the green overhanging branches of trees.

There goes the life I could have had.

Almost did have.

A strange, horrible screeching sound fills my head, drowning everything else out – and at first I wonder if it’s just in my head or whether it’s me and I’m doing it out loud…and then I realize that Mrs Rolfe from the Old Vicarage has stopped in the middle of the pavement and is staring at me, and the screech stops and there’s a new noise. One that sounds a bit like…like a car horn.

A car horn coming from behind me.

I’m in the middle of the road, aren’t I? That screech was brakes.

Slowly, I turn around.

It’s an old car – one of those vintage things that looks like a squashed frog. It doesn’t help that it’s dark green, either. The effect is…deeply amphibian.

More blasts on the horn, sharp and angry, then long. One-two-three-fooooooouuuurrrr.

Is everybody looking? Has anyone else seen? Are there faces at the windows along the street, peering out to see what all the noise is in this tiny little nothing village at this time of the morning?

No big deal – just Flora Sutherland, standing in the middle of the road.

I make myself take a step sideways, back to the safety of the pavement, and hope that’s enough. I wish the car would go, that the ground will swallow me, that nobody – nobody – has noticed or shaken their heads and thought, Well, what do you expect from someone like her? None of it is enough, and the driver’s door swings open with a creak.

“What the hell are you doing? I almost hit you!”

Red hair, sunglasses above a dark T-shirt, and a face bleached pale with shock.

“Are you crazy? Hello? HELLO?!”

The word “crazy” hits me harder than the car could ever have done. I flinch – then panic in case he saw, but he whisks straight past me and drops into a crouch in front of the car.

He’s checking it for scratches. Buffing at the paint with the palm of his hand.

He doesn’t care whether he nearly hit me. He cares whether I dinged his paint job.

I take a deep breath, hugging Charlie’s parcel tighter to my chest like a shield.

Is this a balanced reaction?

Satisfied I haven’t damaged his paintwork, he turns back to me and sees me watching him.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing, just standing there in the road? Have you got some kind of death wish?” He pulls the sunglasses off his face and waves them around him like he’s conducting the orchestra at an outrage concert. “If I hadn’t looked up right then…” he starts – then stops himself.

“Maybe,” I say quietly, “you should look where you’re going.” I almost add, “instead of calling other people crazy” but decide it’s better if I don’t.

“Maybe,” he snaps back, “you shouldn’t stand in traffic.” He’s younger than someone with that kind of car should be. My age, maybe a couple of years older. Eighteen? Nineteen? His eyes are a washed out shade somewhere between blue and green, and he squints against the bright sunshine.

“Yes. Traffic. There’s so much of it,” I mutter, turning my face away again and letting his gaze slide off me.

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