I will be honest: I judged All the Broken Pieces by its cover. It has a baseball on the cover and a Language Arts teacher told me it was a good book, especially for boys. I was skeptical because I knew it was a verse book and, even though I love verse books, I know that the direct market for verse books is girls.
All the Broken Pieces challenges that. Yes, baseball is not much of the story; protagonist Matthew must confront his memories of fleeing a war-torn Vietnam, so emotions and the conflict versus self are the main focus of the story. But how is that different from March Toward the Thunder? That one is marketed to both genders, but I know more boys check it out.
Burg’s verse format actually helps the narrative. One characteristic of verse novels is that, when written well, you can finish them in one sitting. That’s the case here. I kept turning pages, just one more segment of poems, wanting to know more. That process repeated all the way to the end.
This is a well-told story about the effects of the Vietnam War on the soldiers, on the US homefront, and on the people of Vietnam. If you’re looking for something like The Journal of Patrick Seamus Flaherty, this is not it and you won’t hear much about squad combat. You will, on the other hand, hear what it’s like to have napalm dropped on your village. The thing I appreciate, though, is that Burg does not take sides. She presents the effects and lets you draw your own conclusions without being preachy.
This is a great debut novel from Ann Burg and I’m excited to see more.