By Ekta R. Garg
December 13, 2017
Genre: YA fiction
Release date: November 14, 2017
Rated: Bordering on Borrow it / 2.5 stars
A teen finds herself boxing up her ex-boyfriend’s belongings after he dies in a tragic accident. As she goes through his things, she also finds herself also sorting through the memories of their relationship and how it ended. The longer she spends in his room, though, the more the teen gets the feeling that her ex-boyfriend’s death has some greater significance. Author Megan Miranda returns to YA fiction with a story that struggles to gain traction in her latest novel Fragments of the Lost.
Jessa Whitworth can’t quite believe the news, despite the weeks that have passed since the accident. Her ex-boyfriend, Caleb Evers, got caught in a flash flood and drove over the guard rail into a river in their New Jersey town. Since finding out about Caleb, Jessa quit the track team, more or less, and she doesn’t answer any texts or calls from her best friend, Hailey. Her parents try to support her through her grief, but their attention gets diverted on numerous occasions by Jessa’s older brother and baseball superstar, Julian.
So Jessa does what she can to cope on her own, until the day Caleb’s mother, Eve, approaches her. Eve blames Jessa for Caleb’s death. She’s never said so in those exact words, but Jessa knows that’s how Eve feels. After all, on the day he died Caleb came to one of her races, and just before the race started she spoke to him. Witnesses later said Caleb left the race before it ended and looked upset.
It makes sense to Jessa, then, that Eve would want to punish her. Eve practically demands that Jessa come over and clean out Caleb’s room, and Jessa complies. She doesn’t want to, but then again she does. The details of Caleb’s death eat at her, and Jessa hopes that spending time in his room will provide her with some answers. Despite their breakup, Jessa still cares deeply for him.
Everywhere she looks she sees evidence of their relationship, and every photo and object triggers a memory. Along with the memories, though, Jessa finds other items that don’t make sense. When Max, Caleb’s best friend, tries to join Jessa in cleaning Caleb’s room, Jessa rebuffs him. Max keeps insisting, however, and Jessa starts to give in. The more she investigates—because suddenly that’s what it feels like instead of just packing—the more she realizes Caleb’s death isn’t just a tragedy. It’s a mystery and maybe more.
Author Megan Miranda begins her book with a sluggish pace after offering a somewhat clumsy inciting incident: Eve’s forceful request that Jessa clean out Caleb’s room. Apparently Eve wants nothing to do with the task, creating a peculiar vibe for the book. Adding to that Jessa’s insistence on reliving, in first-person narrative, every detail of her time with Caleb as she packs up his room, and the book’s pace proceeds so slowly it’s almost going backwards.
More problematic is the fact that Jessa offers a reason for the breakup, but it doesn’t come across as compelling enough to create a rift in what she deems true love. The way Eve lurks around corners borders on creepiness; her behavior, and not Jessa’s, fits the role of ex-girlfriend. Also, Jessa may not question Eve’s initial demands, but even the most casual reader probably will. In fact, readers will figure out long before Jessa does that something bigger is happening in the story.
Miranda does offer some saving graces. Jessa’s parents don’t neglect her the way many parents neglect their teens in YA novels. It’s true that their preoccupation with big brother Julian may approach the realm of the stereotypical, but the genre requires that much and Miranda fulfills the requirement without overdoing it. Also, once Jessa finally finishes cleaning out Caleb’s room, the story really does get moving and turn into an interesting read. It’s just a shame that readers will have to sit on their hands for about three-fourths of the book to get to the turning point. Until then it’s mostly Jessa reminiscing over Caleb and wishing, as all teens would, for a second chance.
For a vacation book, this one fits the bill but readers shouldn’t get their hopes up unless they’ve committed to slogging through the first couple of sections. I rate Fragments of the Lost as Bordering on Borrowing it.