Wow. That is all I can say about Ann E. Burg’s All The Broken Pieces. I picked this off my pile of Cybils nominees and began reading without looking at the flap cover. I was caught completely off guard by how amazing this verse novel is!
Matt Pin is haunted by his memories of Vietnam. He was born a bui doi, the dust of life, son of an American GI and Vietnamese mother during the Vietnam War. He has nightmares of falling bombs, land mines, and the awful secret he left behind in Vietnam. He was airlifted out of Vietnam at ten years old, leaving behind his mother and brother.
Through the course of the book Matt is forced to come to terms with his with his horrifying past and his American present. Unsure if he can exist in both worlds, or if he even should, he comes face to face with the effects of the Vietnam War on American soil.
This is an extremely powerful novel. As a huge Miss Saigon fan, my middle school self would have loved this book. I found myself humming Bui Doi throughout the novel. However, I don’t think reading the novel requires any previous knowledge of the Vietnam War. Even readers with no knowledge of the Vietnam War will close this book understanding the ramifications of war. The book explores its effects on soldiers, civilians, parents, sons, daughters, and those left behind.
The verse format of this novel also works exceptionally well. The verse is spare yet you can not breeze through it. Being in Matt’s head connects you to him more than a standard 1st person perspective. I know many of my students look for verse novels because they are less intimidating than prose novels. However, this novel is a perfect example of how deeply evocative verse novels can be. I can’t wait to recommend this to all of my sixth graders. It will connect with boys and girls, I think.
*Review copy courtesy of the publisher, via the Cybils. All opinions are my own and not necessarily shared by the panel as a whole.