Eight Pieces Of Silva by Patrice Lawrence

The Blurb On The Back:

Silva’s door is open.  My brain nudges me.  She’s not in there.  All the time I’ve been hanging around and trying not to disturb her, she wasn’t here at all …

Becks and Silva live under the same roof, but they couldn’t be less like sisters.

Becks likes watching loud superhero movies, girls, and chatting to anyone and everyone.  Silva likes privacy; her bedroom is her oasis, and she has an unspoken rule that none of her family are allowed inside.

But then Silva goes missing.

Becks enters Silva’s room.

And finds eight clues about Silva’s secret life.

Can Becks piece the jigsaw together and find her, before it’s too late? 

You can order Eight Pieces Of Silva by Patrice Lawrence from Amazon UK, Waterstone’s or Bookshop.org UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

15-year-old Rudbeckia (known to everyone as Becks) lives in London with her mum, her mum’s partner Justin and Justin’s 18-year-old daughter Silva (who moved in with them a couple of years earlier after her mum died from cancer).  

Becks’s mum and Justin have just got married and Silva accompanied them to the airport to see them off on their dream honeymoon but when she doesn’t return, Becks is annoyed that she’s staying out without warning her first.  She and Silva have completely different personalities – Becks is a loud, out lesbian into superhero and fantasy movies and k-pop whereas Silva is quiet, valuing her privacy and keeping everyone at a distance – and Becks assumes that Silva’s just acting out.  

When Becks’s cat Azog the Defiler sneaks into Silva’s bedroom and does something unforgivable that needs cleaning up, Becks stumbles on something that suggests that Silva has been keeping secrets.  When Silva still doesn’t come home and fails to respond to Becks’s texts, an increasingly worried Becks makes a more thorough search of Silva’s room, coming up with 8 clues as to what is going on and why but only if Becks can work out what they mean …

Patrice Lawrence’s standalone YA contemporary novel uses a mystery structure to tell a story of love, loss, grief and obsession with a pitch perfect narrative voice that shows both London and blended families in a way that’s vivid and recognisable.  I wished some of the friendships had been more fully developed (particularly Raych) but liked the lesbian romance, the geek references and the central mystery and look forward to Lawrence’s next book.

From the very first page Becks has once of the best first person narrative voices I’ve ever read in a YA novel.  I completely believed in her as a loud, lesbian, London teen who enjoys hanging out with her friends, loves Marvel movies and has a crush on another girl.  Particularly good is how Lawrence portrays blended families and the complications and frictions that can come from the same but equally how everyone works to get along.  Some of my favourite scenes are those where Becks describes the changes that she and her mum made to welcome Silva into their home after her mother died and her complicated feelings about it.  

I also liked how Becks talks about her DNA father, who left when she was very young and who has been in and out of prison.  One of the best plot lines, for me, relates to how she has been receiving letters from her father who now wants to have a relationship with her and I thought that Lawrence conveyed the conflicted emotions that this creates for her in a believable and relatable way.  The scenes between them do a great job of showing their mutual awkwardness as she’s cautious and a little resentful while also being wary of his motives.

Becks is out and proud – her crush on China is sweetly depicted and I enjoyed the way she and her friends are comfortable in talking about it.  Also good is how she and her friends talk about ethnicity and attitudes within ethnic communities towards one and other (including to homosexuality) and also how she acknowledges when something she likes (e.g. k-pop) has a problematic relationship with part of who she is.  

Where I did want more from the book was in how Lawrence dealt with the friendship between Becks and Raych and between Silva and Raych.  Given how pivotal these friendships are to the main plot, I didn’t believe enough in it – especially with regards to Silva.  This is partly because we don’t get a lot of Raych on the page (and there are good narrative reasons for that) and while Becks keeps pointing out how they’re drifting apart, I needed to have this shown rather than told to me and ditto when it came to Raych’s more privileged background and the advantages this gave her.  Similarly in the sections narrated by Silva, I wanted to see more in there about her relationship with Raych and the influence Raych has on her – particularly because I think this feeds into the obsession element of the plot.  In fact, I should say that I think the Silva narrated scenes pale a little compared to Becks’s – partly because Becks is such an extrovert character but also because Lawrence has to conceal a lot in order to keep the mystery element going.

Lawrence is very clever in how she uses that mystery format because it’s really not clear what is going on with Silva until the final quarter.  She completely wrong footed me with that plot line in a way that delighted me, especially as what could have been a story of creepy obsession is run through with grief and loneliness that left me completely sympathetic to what happened (even though I hated what was happening).

The use of location is great.  Becks and her family live in a small flat in an unglamorous part of London but Becks knows people who have bigger houses in better neighbourhoods (in some cases because the parents bought back when they were downmarket areas with bad reputations).  I recognised the parts of London that Becks travels to and recognised her dad’s concern about Becks travelling to some areas on her own.  I also liked the details about being on the bus, checking her phone credit and enjoying the benefit from her friends’ Uber accounts.  This isn’t tourist London, this is the city that people actually live in.

All in all, despite some reservations I thought that this was a really strong contemporary YA novel that has a lot going for it and is worth a read.  Lawrence is rapidly becoming an important voice in YA fiction and I very much look forward to seeing what she writes next.  

EIGHT PIECES OF SILVA was released in the United Kingdom on 6th August 2020.  Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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