A little while ago now, I read and fell in love with Emmy & Oliver, a beautiful story about childhood friends -my weakness, guys-, written by Robin Benway. Obviously, I wanted to read more from her as soon as I could, but you know how TBRs go…they are endless. I was, once again, pleasantly surprised once I got to read Far From The Tree, a beautiful book that focuses, drumrolls…On family ties. YES, please, I want and need more of that in my young adult contemporary books.
A CHARACTER-DRIVEN JOURNEY
Far From The Tree follows the life of three teenagers, Maya, Grace and Joaquim, both given up for adoption at birth. All of their lives took down very different paths, as they were adopted – or not. This story follows them as they get in touch for the first time, meet, navigate delicate paths of new sibling-hoods, all the while coping with their own internal struggles and secrets.
If it took me a moment to get accustomed to the story and to Grace’s point of view as she faces an unwanted pregnancy, gives her baby up for adoption and slowly questions herself, her adoptive parents, about her own mother who gave her up sixteen years ago. Starting with a couple of flashbacks narrative, easing us into her own story and what she had to live through, before slowly starting to get into this story, the one where she seeks her mother, finds out about her siblings and more…Far From The Tree took me a little while to get into, but once I did, it was all worth it. Robin Benway writes here a gut-wrenching contemporary about where you come from, where you fit it, what family really is, and so on. It’s a book that’s all about the people, their own journey and it was so beautiful to follow.
THREE POINTS OF VIEW, THREE VOICES AND STRUGGLES
Told in three different point of view, we get to know three very different characters with their own quirks, their own lives. Grace seems to be the serious one, trying to cope with her own emotions as she had to give up her own child. Maya seems to be the loud one, yet trying to know where she is supposed to fit in her adoptive family of red-heads, in-between her parents, her adoptive sister and her two new siblings she finds out about. Joaquim is more of the silent one, struggling with his own secrets, balanced from one family to another since birth, almost fitting in for the first time with his new parents, scared to know where he belongs or if he can belong anywhere for real without hurting anyone in the process.
The three characters of this story had different voices, different struggles, yet they never failed at being human. Flawed, acting stupid at times, making you want to shake them a little while – they were beautifully human, changing and developing as life, as they meet each other and so on..
AMAZING SIBLINGS RELATIONSHIPS
What I probably appreciated the most about this story, was how strong and complex the siblings relationships were. From strangers to trying to get to know each other, from closed doors to opening up to each other… As the story unfolds, Grace, Maya and Joaquim’s bond grow stronger, protective, more sibling-like every single time. It was so beautiful and heartwarming to follow as they, really, became family as they should be. Their dynamics were adorable to follow, as Joaquim handles the role of the big, protective brother, as somehow they manage to bicker in the car and turn from acting like strangers who quite don’t know what to say to each other, to siblings sharing mayonnaise and fries and having each others’ back no matter what.
Despite this story being about three adoptive children, I appreciated so much the positive parents representation in this story – especially coming from Mark and Linda, Joaquim’s “parents” (he is not adopted so I’m putting the “” anyway). They were so supportive, so open to him, overall they just were the perfect parent representation we need more of in contemporaries.
Added to the family ties in the story, Far From The Tree also shows us a little bit of romance for every character. Romantic relationships as they began, from friendships to a little bit more than that (Look out for the guy named RAFE, LOVED HIM). As they ended and as they begin again. The secondary characters in this story were well-fleshed out, even if I could have used a little bit more material for some of them; I really loved how they were included, part of the whole story and not here just for the sake of it all. I appreciated how their relationship changed as new siblings came into place, how behaviors, fights and makes-ups, came around each of the characters as life changed around them.
Far From The Tree is a book I’d call gut-wrenching and real. It’s not really a light contemporary: it manages to deal with pretty heavy themes, from adoption to parents relationships, unwanted pregnancy and so on, and it doesn’t sugarcoat anything. Yet, with the amazing cast of characters, the narration that’s simple yet captivating, it really is a beautiful book that manages to give you so many emotions you might have not expected. This story about three teenagers, finding out where they come from, who they are, where they fit in, was definitely a must-read for lovers of Robin Benway, strong family ties in their books and don’t mind a little emotion here and there.
Final rating: 4 drops!
A million thanks to the publisher and Edelweiss for the e-ARC of this book. This did not, in any way, affect my opinion and review on this.
Robin Benway, Far From The Tree, Published by HarperTeen, October 3rd, 2017.
Being the middle child has its ups and downs.
But for Grace, an only child who was adopted at birth, discovering that she is a middle child is a different ride altogether. After putting her own baby up for adoption, she goes looking for her biological family, including—
Maya, her loudmouthed younger bio sister, who has a lot to say about their newfound family ties. Having grown up the snarky brunette in a house full of chipper redheads, she’s quick to search for traces of herself among these not-quite-strangers. And when her adopted family’s long-buried problems begin to explode to the surface, Maya can’t help but wonder where exactly it is that she belongs.
And Joaquin, their stoic older bio brother, who has no interest in bonding over their shared biological mother. After seventeen years in the foster care system, he’s learned that there are no heroes, and secrets and fears are best kept close to the vest, where they can’t hurt anyone but him.
Do you want to read Far From The Tree? Did you read Emmy & Oliver, or another book by Robin Benway? Do you want to? (you should)
What are some great books exploring family ties? I would love some recs, so let me know in comments!