Too Shattered for Mending

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 12 Sep 2017

Member Reviews

Too Shattered for Mending is an incredible story about a boy, called Little, trying to survive a dysfunctional and abusive family and childhood. 

Set in Pierce, Idaho, a small town with a high poverty rate, Little, unlike most people his age, doesn’t want out. He wants to buy some land, and start his own business. The only thing standing in his way, other than money of course, is his grandfather’s disappearance.

Written in the present, and small glimpses of memories, the reader gets small glimpses of how Little has grown up. More than anything, you realize how difficult Little has had it. The book is one that makes you think. In a town where meth apparently rules, staying clean and in school is a huge deal. Little's dyslexia makes it a struggle, but he doesn't give up.

His character is beautifully written. He's complex, and emotionally stronger than he realizes. His love for Willa shines in every interaction between him. Speaking of Willa, I loved her jokes and shared every one of them with my husband.

The other characters in the book aren't as strong as Little. JT is predictable, especially for a small town football star. I didn't care for Rowan, but hated the the end of her storyline. Zaylie was different, but not in a bad way, and I enjoyed watching her and Little's relationship grow.

Overall, the descriptions of the Idaho landscape set a beautifully setting to a story that will keep you guessing until the last chapter.
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I had some suspicions about what had happened to  Big from pretty early on, though I can't say I ever predicted quite the big reveal we got. A reveal that is never actually explicitly stated. Its implied pretty heavily but no clear statement. There were a few moments where I loved this book, but mostly I was pretty ambivalent. There's no clear intent, just survival and the pressures of poverty.
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Too Shattered for Mending

by Peter Brown Hoffmeister

Random House Children's

Knopf Books for Young Readers



Teens & YA

Pub Date 12 Sep 2017 

I am reviewing a copy of Too Shattered for Mending Through Random House Children's and Netgalley:

"Little McCardell is trying to keep it together after the dissapearance of his Grandfather.  Little is far from Little at 6'5 and still growing.  He also struggles in School due to having Dyslexia.  After his Grandfathers dissapearance and the arrest of his older brother J.T "Little" finds himself looking out for his younger cousin, hunting and fishing to provide food.

The cops show up asking questions about Big, questions Little does not want to answer because he doesn't want to get involved in the investigation, but he half cooperates because his mind is half on the Girl he has been pinning after Rowan.

When Little's brother J.T is released the brothers get drunk together.

The book goes on to talk about how in the fifth grade Little still could not read.  

I give Too Shattered For Mending four out of five stars!

Happy Reading!
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4.5 Stars

“Little” McCardell is doing all he can just to keep it together after the disappearance of his grandfather “Big” and the arrest of his older brother, JT. He’s looking out for his younger cousin, hunting and fishing to keep food on the table, barely getting by in school, and pining for Rowan, a girl that is more damaged than him and JT's girlfriend - at least she was before JT was sent to prison.  However, things start to change for Little, when the local deputy starts asking questions regarding Big's whereabouts. With Little on the brink of implosion, holding on to the secrets of those he cares for most, he not only has no desire to assist with the investigation but he is beginning to realize that if his own dark secret is revealed it could shatter everything.

Peter Brown Hoffmeister is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.  His previous YA novel, "This is the Part Where You Laugh," was phenomenal and his latest foray in young adult fiction is even better.  It's not just his ability to tell a gritty and compelling story that makes him an author to watch out for, but it's also the emotion he is able to evoke from his reader through such sparse storytelling.  Additionally, his characters are fascinating and so well-developed.  In a less skilled hand they could come across as caricatures, however, Hoffmeister is able to create people who feel real making their stories all the more heartbreaking.  To me, both Rowan and Little are characters I won't soon forget.

Overall, this is a book that demands discussion and Hoffmeister's Author's Note  provides a perfect opportunity for teen readers to really understand that rural poverty is not only a very real thing but also something that should be addressed.  This is definitely a novel that deserves a place on YA shelves and one that I can't wait to recommend to everyone I know!
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Years ago I came across a John Green novel I couldn’t get enough of and that book was: Looking for Alaska. It just made an impression on me with the young male protagonist Miles and the way he viewed the world. It was an excellent coming-of-age novel that dealt with real issues. (and damn..did it make me cry)
Not sense have I come across a novel that reminded me of Looking for Alaska for all the right reasons. Too Shattered For Mending brought with it feelings I haven’t felt while reading a YA story in quite some time.
The story follows Little who is just trying to keep it together, while everything around him is seemingly falling apart. His older brother JT got arrested. His grandfather “Big” is missing. And he has to take care of his younger cousin Willa. Little takes it upon him to try and helps his brother’s girlfriend who he’s also crushing on. It’s so much to fall on Little’s shoulders, especially with the cops showing up looking for Big.
The town the story is set in is falls well below the poverty line. It’s filled with addicts, dealers, alcoholics, and the likes. His alcoholic aunt and uncle don’t help matters. There are plenty of tough, very real topics dealt with in the story. Hoffmeister has the ability of writing in such a raw, gritty way that really works here. The chapters are fairly short making for a quick read.
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4 “gritty reality” stars

An ARC has been kindly provided by Random House Children, via NetGalley.com, in exchange for an honest review.


When I read the blurb of this novel, I thought I needed to read it and expected a YA book with a slight dose of reality. What I did not expect was being plunged into the bleak reality of a rural Idaho town filled with people having little to no hope of escaping poverty.
I was taken by surprise by the writing style of Peter Brown Hoffmeister.

The penmanship is very distinctive with very short chapters most written in present tense when Little explains what he is doing “I take the truck and head to …” allowing us to follow him in his day to day live. Some chapters are written in past tense when Little is speaking/writing/thinking to “You”. ““You drank the rest of your mix. Set the can empty—sideways, not upright—on the table and it rolled to the middle until it stopped against one of those ears.” And you understand pretty soon he is addressing his Grandfather “Big”.

As a result this fictional story gave me the same feeling I get while reading or watching some newspaper report covering the live of some people living in poverty. If I got caught up in Little McCardell’s story I can’t say I was drowned in his feelings or really walked in his shoes as the author’s choice made it very “matter of fact”” or “down to earth” rather than emotional.

Now what can you expect from this book?

√ First expect to be surprised.
This is a mystery and after some time I had an idea about what happened to Big and who did what but I was wrong! I never saw it coming. I can say the same about other plot twists or rather what secrets are weighting on some characters.

√Second expect to be confronted to a glum reality
This isn’t hearts, flowers and unicorns. This little town is home of drunkards, meth addicts and dealers, … Most people dream of leaving this town to have a better life elsewhere. Little’s family is very dysfunctional. No mother and no father. His Grandfather is missing at the time of the story, his brother is temporarily absent as well. His uncle and aunt are drunk all the time. Little is forced to take care of his young cousin Willa, goes to school alone and tries to succeed with great difficulties.
“Sometimes I think about how we’re all spread out along here, in these dead North Idaho towns, old US Forest Service and Potlatch logging sites, and everyone young hoping to leave as soon as possible because there’s a world out there that’s supposed to be better than this, a world that’s moved into the 21st century, a world with cell phone coverage and Internet and better cars, a world with colleges and fancy restaurants and jobs people go to every day wearing silk ties and expensive suits. But I don’t know if I ever want to leave. I like this land where there are more deer than people, where moose walk the highway, where trees are taking back the old cuts.”


√Third expect to admire and have compassion for Little
Little is struggling in school as he has dyslexia. Mathematics are Chinese and he does not have any support system from his family, only a teacher trying to coach him. 
“When the teacher stands up and lectures, and explains each problem, I discover that all the equations I wrote down before were wrong. Not a single one correct. I rewrite them, but while I’m doing that, the class gets ahead of me and I’m not sure what the teacher is talking about once I start listening again”
Yet he keeps going to school, trying his best. He works in a cemetery to earn some money, goes hunting when his cousin has no meat anymore. Despite his very difficult life he does not want to drink alcohol or forget his problems in drugs like most do in his town. This is a kid that raised himself and chose to have values. He chose to fight, to better himself and at the same time is conscious of his own difficulties. He does not dream big. He just likes hunting, fishing, hiking in the woods. He wants to stay in his little town and enjoy a simple life. 
“When I think of being in school or being in the woods, it’s not much of a decision. I know I should love education or something but the real world is a thing I can understand, a thing I can learn and come to love.”
You could say that Little is an old soul.
“Sometimes I feel like I’m 60 years old, not sixteen. My body’s strong, but this country has worked on me, this region’s water, its wind, its seasons, its heat and cold. I’m stuck where I grew. There are fishing poles in the back of this truck right now, the same fishing poles I learned on when I was five years old.”


√Last expect to rage against fate.
Little had no luck in life. Why are some people born into wealth, in a good environment whereas others are born into poverty? There are millions of Little around the world. There are thousands of millions in the US. Struggling every day of their lives with little to no hope. Little is a good kid. He does his best to care for his cousin, to help Rowan his brother’s girlfriend, to help others in need. That’s why it’s so unfair what is happening to him!

So I would say what Jeff Zentner told about this book : “The missing link between Looking for Alaska and Winter’s Bone, a gripping—and gritty—literary mystery that shines a light on rural poverty.” is very accurate and I could not sum it up better.

Would I recommend it? Yes if you’re into mysteries and don’t shy away from realistic writing. No if you’re only into romance and/or hearts and flowers.
As far as I’m concerned and passed the initial surprise of what I did not expect as a read I’m really glad I could follow Little’s raw and gritty story.
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Honestly, I struggled to get through this book. I felt as though there was no actual structure to the story and that made it difficult to read. It never wrapped up, just abruptly ended. I am an avid reader and I had a difficult time following this book.
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This book is heartbreaking. But even through heartbreak, there is always light. This will be a read that should be on any new book list.
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Coming from a small town this book resonates with me! Amazing words and the plot was so real!
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In a small town in rural Idaho, Little McCardell is just trying to get by, with his older brother, JT, in lock-up and his grandfather, Big, nowhere to be found. 

When the sheriff’s deputy comes looking for information on Big’s disappearance, Little doesn’t have much to go on—and he’s just trying to get by, dealing with his feelings for his brother’s girlfriend, Rowan, and taking care of his 10-year-old cousin, Willa. But if Little doesn’t come up with something to give the deputy, his secret—and his freedom—is at stake. 

Little’s voice marries the simplistic with the literary. As a hunter and fisher, Little loves being out in nature, and his descriptions of the world around him are incredibly poignant. At the same time, he’s struggling to survive life in abject poverty, and his voice reflects this in that he doesn’t waste any words. 

Too Shattered for Mending is incredibly gritty—if you couldn’t tell by the title. Peter Brown Hoffmeister doesn’t beat around the bush or romanticize about Little’s situation: he’s living in a trailer next door to his alcoholic/drug addicted aunt and uncle. He and his cousin Willa have to steal his aunt Derlene’s food stamps, otherwise she’ll trade them (for what, it’s never completely stated). Otherwise, Little survives on fish or deer he can catch out in the wild, or from eggs collected by his dwindling chicken population. As if that’s not enough, Little also struggles in school; he’s dyslexic, but only one of his teachers makes a real effort to help him learn. He’s fighting an uphill battle on all fronts.
 
Violence is a normal part of life for the characters in this book. Early on, we meet JT’s girl, Rowan, and Little’s long-time crush. In the present narration, Rowan’s on the run from her abusive daddy, and as the story progresses she ends up deeper and deeper into alcohol (and, it’s implied, meth). At one point, she even admits that she was working for Big—whom we come to realize was involved heavily in the meth scene. 

Hoffmeister doesn’t romanticize about the damage done by meth in these small towns either. It’s ugly both in what it does to users and in what it drives the people manufacturing/distributing it to as well. However, I liked that all the meth drama was happening in the background of Little’s story; he doesn’t want to get involved, in part because he’s seen what it does to people.

The novel employs one of my favorite narrative styles: it takes us back in time briefly, showing glimpses of Little’s life, most of them involving his grandfather. We learn about Little’s tragic childhood: his mother drove her car over an embankment in an implied suicide, and he’s never known more about his dad than his name, Jesus Gomez. 
As the flashbacks and the rest of the story progress, we learn more about Big, how he raised Little and JT, but how he also was incredibly volatile, abusive, and involved in drug business. 

The “twist” of the mystery is somewhat easy to guess at, despite it not being confirmed in the end. I won’t give anything away, but the mystery is really only half the story; I found myself wanting to know more of Little’s relationship with his grandfather, rather than dying to know what happened to him in the end. 

Ultimately, this is a story about Little: about who he is apart from Big’s grandson, the not-so-little kid who followed Big around all those years, doing whatever he asked; about who he is apart from JT’s younger brother; about who he is apart from the father he never knew and the mother who wasn’t there either.

The Author’s Note talks about Hoffmeister’s discover that he has Mexican heritage, which his grandmother kept hidden from her own daughter for most of her life. In Too Shattered for Mending, Little decides to learn Spanish on a whim, in part because he wants to feel closer to the dad he never knew. Meanwhile, JT insists that Jesus Gomez doesn’t deserve the title of Dad, and Aunt Derlene makes racist comments about how worthless and lazy the boys’ father was. 

Meanwhile, Little struggles to form his own identity apart from his brother, who recently got out of lock-up. While JT focuses on getting a football scholarship and drinking, Little focuses on practical ways to survive. Although JT taught him many things growing up, and Little remains loyal to his brother, he ultimately realizes that he acts on his own, and that’s okay. 

Rowan’s character broke my heart. She’s getting beat up by her dad, so she’s basically homeless, crashing wherever she can (and sometimes with Little). I can’t blame her for turning to alcohol/drugs to numb her pain. What made me so sad is that it really seems like there isn’t a way out for her. 

While Rowan’s situation was really upsetting to read, it didn’t strike me as unrealistic. However, I was slightly bothered that both girls Little expresses interest in romantically are the Tragic Broken Girls—Rowan because she’s traumatized and addicted, and Zaylie because she’s trapped in a family who doesn’t allow her to fully live. 

As much as I appreciated reading this book, I don’t know that I could recommend it for everyone. It’s incredibly dark and could be really triggering for some people. I do think it’s important to read books about poverty—especially since it’s really underrepresented in Young Adult fiction. I felt that Hoffmeister’s treatment of rural poverty was realistic, in that Little ends the book working to move forward, but it isn’t a rosy ending either. 
Overall, I really loved this book, but I will recommend it with caution due to its heavy content.
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