cover image Frannie in Pieces

Frannie in Pieces

Delia Ephron, . . HarperTeen/Geringer, $16.99 (374pp) ISBN 978-0-06-074716-9

When 15-year-old Frannie stumbles upon an elaborately carved box bearing her name as she is sorting through her late father's art studio, she assumes she has found a birthday present that he made for her before his recent, untimely death. Inside she finds a handmade, 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle; assembling it distracts Frannie from her grief and her growing obsession with death. But sometimes, usually when she is exhausted, the connected puzzle pieces seem to pull her inside them and transport her to a foreign place where she sometimes glimpses or even talks with a younger version of her father. In deftly conjuring up the magical element of this otherwise realistic novel, Ephron (How to Eat Like a Child ) explores themes about “puzzling” relationships, the process of mourning (which leaves Frannie “in pieces”) and seeing the larger picture. Frannie, an artist like her father and at odds with her more conventional mother and stepfather, feels too much pain to connect with anyone else, including her best friend. Whether or not Frannie's journeys into the jigsaw puzzle are figments of her imagination (plenty of evidence suggests they are not), her brief visits to its world have a profound psychological effect, answering some of her questions about love, art and life. Truths about Frannie's long-divorced parents emerge suddenly in a gratifying climax that forces Frannie, and readers, to reassemble her picture of her family and herself. With this imaginative and insightful first YA novel, Ephron, co-screenwriter for The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants , should easily capture a new audience. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)