Title: The Million Pieces Of Neena Gill
Author: Emma Smith-Barton
Published: July 11th 2019
Rating: 🌟 🌟 🌟
Neena’s always been a good girl – great grades, parent-approved friends and absolutely no boyfriends. But ever since her brother Akash left her, she’s been slowly falling apart – and uncovering a new version of herself who is freer, but altogether more dangerous.
As her wild behaviour spirals more and more out of control, Neena’s grip on her sanity begins to weaken too. And when her parents announce not one but two life-changing bombshells, she finally reaches breaking point.
But as Neena is about to discover, when your life falls apart, only love can piece you back together.
Trigger warning for sexual assault and suicide.
The Million Pieces Of Neena Gill is a powerful story about grief and loss that follows a British-Pakistani teenager whose mental health rapidly declines throughout the course of the novel and the months following her brother’s disappearance.
Although I enjoyed the book overall, I had a lot of issues with the writing at the very beginning of the story. It felt incredibly disjointed and repetitive but, ultimately, as the novel progresses, the writing ends up reflecting Neena’s muddled thoughts and unreliability as a narrator. In particular, in the lead up to her psychotic episode in the climax of the novel, the author’s narrative style really works to convey what’s going on inside Neena’s head.
This being said, I didn’t particularly like Neena as a character or her obsession with her boyfriend, Josh. The romantic storyline felt incredibly immature and cheesy but I also have to keep reminding myself that these characters are only fifteen years old so they’re going to make mistakes and questionable decisions.
The book also deals with a lot of mature themes like substance misuse and alcohol, and it has representation for a range of mental health issues including psychosis, depression, anxiety and agoraphobia. Neena’s mother, for example, struggles to leave the house following her son’s disappearance and, on the rare occasion that she leaves in order to attend a meeting at Neena’s school, she experiences a panic attack. Although Neena’s dad was an unlikeable character, playing into the stereotype of a strict Asian parent, her mother’s understanding of mental illnesses was so heart-warming to read about because these illnesses are so rarely understood within South-Asian communities.
Overall, this is a beautiful story about one sister searching for her missing brother and holding on to his memory so that he’s never really gone. There were certain aspects I didn’t particularly enjoy and some loose threads that weren’t tied up in the conclusion, but the mental illness representation is commendable, right down to the way it’s written onto the page.