I have hungered for things. I have bargained with people I don’t like. I have hated myself for bargaining with people I don’t like. I have slept and dreamed shameful things. Shameful because I’d give anything to make them come true. When I was younger, that hunger was sharper, burned further and deeper. At 16 I would have sold my soul ten times over to get the thing I wanted. Now in my 30s I can shrug my shoulders at the first hunger pang of wanting something I can’t have. Now, I know better. Now I fully understand that annoying adage of “Be careful what you wish for.”
In Kate Karyus Quinn’s Another Little Piece, Annaliese Rose Gordon has been missing for a year. One day, she shows up in front of a trailer covered in blood and wearing nothing but a garbage bag. She is the missing girl who has come back from the dead. But she’s not Annaliese Rose Gordon. She doesn’t know who she is and her memories are just beyond reach.
She calls her parents ‘The Mom’ and ‘The Dad’ because they don’t belong to her. She vaguely remembers a party, everybody drinking, music thumping against the ground. She remembers being in the woods with Logan, a high school jock. She had a crush on him forever. She makes a wish ( and believe me, this is no Disney “when you wish upon a star”) and gives her soul away to have Logan’s desire.
Turns out, she wasn’t specific enough. He isn’t in love with her. He just lusts after her. He’s cursed with an obsession for her. After she gives her virginity to him (all the while thinking “This is what I wished for? Hurry up and be done already”), a girl comes into the woods to tell Annaliese that she got what she wished for and now it’s time to pay. The girl makes her say it: “I will pay.” An old barber’s razor blade with names branded into the handle slices through Annaliese’s arm. Her rib cage is broken and her heart taken from her chest to be eaten. This is payment for her deepest desire.
I don’t know about you, but the older I get my wishes are less and less about lust and “having” someone. They’re more about “I wish the dishwasher wasn’t leaking” or “Dear God, there’s only one toilet in this house so please don’t let all 5 of us get the stomach flu at the same time.”
With a chunk of her heart being swallowed, the soul of the real Annliese disappears and the girl who has taken her body goes on to live her life, all the while knowing she’s an imposter with unreliable memories. ‘The Mom’ is fragile and hovers close, touching Annaliese as though she can’t believe she’s really there. ‘The Dad’ is mostly silent in a father’s way, watchful, more worried about the mom than he is with the returned Annaliese.
A squat red-headed boy at school follows Annaliese around. She has no clue who he is or what he meant to the real Annaliese. But this chubby little red-head isn’t just a moon-faced freshman. He’s also a body stealer (and he’s a little mad that he’s in a chubby kid’s body but hey, the chubby kid sold his soul and it was time to pay). Feeling smothered at home and overwhelmed at school Annaliese seeks out the boy next door named Dex. They become close friends, especially after he shares his own secret with her.
More memories start to surface. She calls herself Anna and begins to remember who and where she was before she took Annaliese’s body. The chubby kid tells her that they’ve always been together, taking bodies and then meeting up again. He’s the love of her life. She highly doubts that. He tells her that her 18th birthday is in a week. She has to take another body or suffer the consequences. She’s beginning to feel hunger pains, day dreaming about cracking open rib cages and plucking out beating hearts and eating them.
The cover of this book threw me off (yes, I do judge books by their covers) because I thought it was going to be a teen romance. And while it has a little romance in it, it also has cannibalism, body snatching, and wish-fulfillment. Pretty much the trifecta of what I look for in a book.
Another Little Piece isn’t a book about good versus evil. It’s about that lovely gray area: I’ve done horrible things and I’ll probably have to do some more horrible things to make everything somewhat right. This book definitely goes into my top 5 of great books to fall into this year. And I promise you that you’ll be thinking about it long after you read it. But wish for something good, like a leak-free dishwasher and a second bathroom.