A Million Little Pieces – James Frey

Posted 19 April, 2008 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 22 Comments


Title: A Million Little Pieces
Author: James Frey
Date Finished: April 19, 2008
Yearly Count: 21
Pages: 432
Rating: 1.5/5

I’m not sure where to begin with this one. Most of the time I hated this book–I seriously considered abandoning it. There have been books that I’ve put down before–even for years–but none with the thought that I would never return to them again. I resorted to skimming–something I also rarely ever do. By the end, I had stopped skimming but reading most of what was on the page, but I’m glad to be finished!

Yes, I read this for the “In Their Shoes” Challenge–yes, I know that parts were fictionalized–yes, I know the controversy of the book. After finishing I started looking up the falsehoods, but honestly I don’t even care anymore. Good riddance! I don’t care to give Frey any more of my valued time (well, after this post anyway).

James Frey, age 23, goes to a rehab facility in Minneapolis for treatment of alcohol and drug addiction. He is wanted in three states, his teeth are knocked out, he has a hole in his cheek, and he can’t remember the past few weeks. He is stubborn, unwilling to take the necessary (well, recommended anyway) steps toward recovery, and his body is a mess of…I don’t even want to recall his descriptions. This is the story of his time in the rehab facility, the relationships he has made, the love he has found, and his eventual domination over “The Fury” that resides within him. There are many redeeming aspects of the book…but plain and simple I didn’t like it.

I don’t claim to be a book critic. Other than my degrees in English, I don’t have any qualifications to deem a book quality writing or not. I don’t claim that these are true reviews of the books that I read–but rather my thoughts for I am not an expert on writing or literature. But I have read enough and taken enough writing courses that I know literary devices and how they are used and when they are effective. Can you see where I’m going with this? I hope so because I don’t really want to say in a public forum what I thought about the writing in this book. OK, I guess I’ve said it in a roundabout way. :)

Do I recommend the book? I guess the basic message Frey presents is that You can gain control of your actions and overcome anything based on You alone–which if true can be a strong statement. I have known a few people who have had addictions and have been hospitalized, but I haven’t gone through it myself or really know what others have gone through. I couldn’t relate and most of the time I was really angry at Frey for seemingly making light of the situation. Ladi-da. Mooooooving on!

22 Responses to “A Million Little Pieces – James Frey”

  1. I’ve been debating for a while if I want to read this book or not. At first I felt it might give me insight into what it is like for people who suffer from addiction, but then I read too many reviews about the lurid descriptions and falsehoods and think I’ll steer clear for now. Thanks for the honest review!

  2. Joy

    LOL I liked it for the experience it took me through – a place where I would never venture in real life. The quality of writing was not an issue for me, knowing it wasn’t a “piece” of literature. Also, I read it before all the falsehoods were exposed, so I thought it was true. Knowing what I know now, I may have a different opinion if I were to read it. Sorry it was a waste of time for you. Here’s to your next read being fantastic! :)

  3. cj

    That’s an interesting review. My niece loves the book and almost changed her discipline in school because of it. The fact that Frey lied about it being factual, however, puts it in my ‘don’t bother’ pile for good.


  4. I read this book a few years back on the recommendation of my girlfriend, who has great taste in books. Unfortunately, I didn’t agree with her on this one. I skimmed most of the last half of the book and really disliked most of it. And I thought I was the only one!

  5. After all the hype over this book a few years ago, I wanted to read it. However, pretty much everyone I know that has read it did not enjoy it AT ALL. I appreciate your honest review, and I think you should reward yourself for finishing the book by reading something really fun (maybe put off Love in the Time or All the Kings Men a little longer)! :)

  6. *Jeane – Lurid is a pretty accurate term–and those are the parts that I found myself skimming through because once you’ve read one paragraph describing his addiction they were all the same.

    *Joy – I recently saw an interview blurb with Frey saying that what he wanted most was for this to be a piece of literature–I guess it just isn’t my type of literature. As I was reading, I often wondered how my perception would have differed if I believed the whole thing to be true–maybe a little different. It wasn’t a COMPLETE waste of time, but I’m certainly glad to be moving on! :)

    *CJ – I’ve heard you say here and there that your niece really liked this book. And I can see how reading something like this would make you want to reach out and help others who have such an extreme addiction (although Frey makes it very clear that he can do it all on his own without help). I was thinking about your post about the wave of false memoirs floating around recently–and I just kept wondering–WHY? From what I’ve read/seen, I’m under the impression that he COULDN’T get it published as fiction (and I can see why!).

  7. *Stephanie – The last half was actually better for me than the first and for that reason I’m glad I didn’t ditch it like I wanted to. True or not I don’t see what all the hype was about.

    *Laura – If you want to borrow/have it…it’s yours! I didn’t even write my name in the book like I usually do when finished. I’m going to read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan now–nice and short and I’ve heard good things about it. NO way I’m touching All the King’s Men next! :)

  8. Yours is not the first negative review of this one I read, and it’s not just the controversy people complain about. I don’t think this one is for me either.

    I hope you enjoy your next read a lot more :)

  9. cj


    That’s interesting and a sad comment on publishing, maybe. They wouldn’t publish it as fiction but they ran with it as non-fiction?


  10. *Nymeth – I think even without the controversy I wouldn’t have liked this book. Oh well–you like some and don’t others–just the way it works out!

    *CJ – Like I said, I kinda gave up on my “search” for truth with this one, but I read somewhere that he had trouble getting it published as fiction (and I’m not sure if it was the *same* version or if he went back and did some revisions afterward). Maybe I saw that on The Smoking Gun–and who knows how accurate that is? I did see an interview with HIM saying that he wanted this to be a piece of “literature.” Whatever that is…we all have our different definitions. But yes, sad note on publishing–they just didn’t feel that they needed to check his story. I’m guessing kind of the same lines as the other two books that you mentioned on your blog.

  11. I had to stop reading this book because of the problem mentioned. I’m glad someone else felt the same way. Everyone who read it has raved and here I was, not able to get passed the first ten pages…lol!

  12. I have this one on my list too, but I was kind of iffy about it. Thanks for sharing, because I don’t want to waste my time, and it sounds like a book I wouldn’t like too much.

  13. I read this book last year for my bookgroup and we ended up having an interesting discussion about it – especially his “I can do it myself” attitude toward curing a drug addiction which most of us found rather disturbing. Most people I’ve talked with are pretty ambivalent about this book when it comes down to evaluating either its literary or philosophical merit.

  14. *J. Kaye – I’m not sure if you’re referring to the problem I mentioned or the problem mentioned in the book? I can think of a couple possible problems. :) Anyway, you aren’t alone–this was a tough read!

    *Kim L – I hate to think that I am talking someone out of reading a book–especially because everyone’s reactions are so different. Maybe if you do read it, though, check it out from the library?

    *Verbivore – Hmmm…I’m interested in a writer’s opinion of this book! I found his attitude a little disturbing as well and certainly not very inspirational. I haven’t been put in a similar situation, but I don’t know if many others who are in the same situation can have the inner strength to overcome addiction just by saying you can? Definitely an interesting message.

  15. I swore I wouldn’t spend a dime on this book and a copy arrived in a box from my book group. So, I’ve got it. I didn’t spend a dime. But, I can’t talk myself into reading it and now I’m convinced . . . skipster. Thanks. You’ve helped me make the decision (“To ditch or not to ditch”).

  16. I keep seeing copies of this one at the second-hand store for just a dollar. I always pick it up, look through it and put it right back. I’ve always been curious, but I actually have no desire to read it.

  17. *Bookfool – arg—maybe just read the first bit and see if it is something you might be interested in. For me, the writing and the attitude of the character (if I say it that way does it mean I’m not attacking the author???) just weren’t up my alley. Should be interesting discussion for your bookgroup, anyway.

    *Natasha – I didn’t really have a strong desire either, but I picked up my copy at a booksale last summer. I thought–75 cents–what could it hurt? I’m glad I know now what it’s all about but I’ll certainly be passing on his follow-up book.

  18. *Bethany – I’m starting to feel guilty about my review!! Anyway, it’s too bad because I think this book could have been better with a few changes.

    *Valentina – I think I need to do a blogsearch to see what other people think of the book. I’ve received a lot of comments here but only one from a person who’s read the book. I’m wondering if I’m way out in left field with my feelings??

  19. *Natasha – thanks! I tried to respond to this yesterday but blogger was down…I had something to say, though. Darnit! Anyway, I was thinking of other authors to include–perhaps John Irving? I don’t see many reviews for him, but I know that I got a lot of hits when I posted my thoughts on The World According to Garp.