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Mother Tongue

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  139 ratings  ·  52 reviews
If you leave home, is your heart left behind?

Darya Ivanova is looking forward to September. She has looked after her little sister, Nika, since she was a baby. Now Nika is starting school. Maybe Darya can find a job with her own tidy desk. Perhaps even a boyfriend. But when an unimaginable tragedy strikes, Darya's life plans are fractured. Stalled. She is afraid. What if
Paperback, 291 pages
Published August 25th 2016 by Hot Key Books
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Average rating 3.72  · 
Rating details
 ·  139 ratings  ·  52 reviews

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May 06, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: standalones, ukya
The first 100 pages were absolutely devastating, and I was't sure after my heart was broken and stamped on if I could even continue. 'Mother Tongue' is incredibly raw and powerful, and unlike any other YA book I've read.
Mother Tongue is a heartbreaking story inspired by The Beslan siege that happened in 2004. I was unfamiliar with this event before reading the book, however after I finished it I fell down a bit of a hole and read a whole lot.
This is a coming of age story about Darya, who survived the siege, but lost her little sister in it. I thought is was written well and that Mayhew managed to capture survivor's guilt and PTSD perfectly. The book had it's frustrating moments too, but I think it was intention
Shannon (It Starts At Midnight)
You can find the full review and all the fancy and/or randomness that accompanies it at It Starts at Midnight .

It's funny, in the last Julie Mayhew book I read (The Big Lie), I freaking loved the first half of the book. I'm talking five-stars, mind blown, all the feelings loved. And that is exactly what happened here. The beginning is awful and raw and I found myself wholly immersed. I will admit, it was hard for me to read (since I had my own kids, reading about kids dying guts me, but that isn
Jul 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel is based on an actual event in Russia, the Beslan School siege of 2004 which makes it even more interesting.
I cannot say I remember much about the Beslan situation, but I do remember something on the news about it. What happened back then and what happened in this book connects in a horrific way.
I enjoyed the book because it seems like it is heart-written. It is the hand of someone who lives through those horrors, directly or indirectly and had a major impact on one's life.
Susan Hampson
Aug 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
Oh what a tragic story this is as it follows the life of Darya Pavlovna. Set in Russia Darya lives in Beslan, a young girl that has had to take on the tremendous responsibility of bringing up her little sister from the day she was born, yet Darya herself still yearns to be mothered. Conflicting and mixed up emotions run through her as she is forced into adulthood before her time.

When horrific events hit Beslan in 2004 Darya is left with a tremendous feeling of guilt and cannot seem to find any p
Andrea Tomé
Oct 30, 2019 rated it really liked it

One of the best YAs I have ever read. This is such a triumph -- an exquisitely well written, thoroughly researched and utterly heart-breaking novel that everyone should read.
Clair Sharpe
I met Julie Mayhew at a YA evening at Waterstones in Brighton along with 3 very other talented YA authors. I'd decided to only buy one book and chose Mother Tongue as it sounded the most unusual.
The story is set in Russia in 2004 and is told from the viewpoint of Darya, a teenager who is looking forward to September, when her little sister will be starting school. Darya has cared for Nika since she was born and is looking forward to starting her own life maybe get a job. A devastating tradegy u
Emily Wrayburn
Aug 01, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: arc, fiction, ebook
Review originally posted on A Keyboard and an Open Mind 3 August 2019:

I was unfamiliar with the Beslan school massacre of 2004 until I read the summary of this book. I requested a copy because I wanted to know more, and I also thought this might be a book to really move me.

In the end, I was a bit disappointed. The writing style made me feel very disconnected from the main character, Darya, and what was going on in her life. I think this was probably a deliberate stylistic choice. For one, the id
Apr 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
I received this book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way changes my opinions, and all of the words below are my own.

3.5 stars
I'm not entirely sure what to say about this book. It is a heartwrenching story and full of lots of small and large disasters that people, unfortunately, have to face in the real world. However, I felt little to no connection to the main character. The writing was fine, it was a short and easy read, and as I said the story itself was quite well done. Yet it
Paula Vince
This novel is based on an actual event in Russia, the Beslan School siege of 2004. Over 1000 hostages were taken in the terrorist attack, and many were killed. In this story, main character Darya Ivanova loses her cheerful little sister Nika, who was starting her first day of school.

The first half of this novel deals with ways in which different family members cope with their intense grief. Darya takes up smoking, distracts herself with housework and cooking, and longs to make a fresh start as a
I've been wanting to read Julie Mayhew's books for years now, so when I heard about the release of her third book, Mother Tongue , I knew I had to read it.

Set in Saratov in 2004, eighteen year old Darya Ivanova is preparing for her future. She has cared for her little sister since she was eleven years old, after her mother developed post-natal depression. Darya loves Nika, but she is ready for her to start school so that she can finally get a job and start her own life. But a siege at the sch
Joséphine (Word Revel)
Initial thoughts: Mother Tongue is based on the Beslan school siege, and the aftermath. Needless to say, that made it a difficult book to read. Knowing that children were killed, thinking about the families left behind, recalling the despairing faces I saw on TV in 2004 made it all the more heart-breaking. The pain, however, does not compare to that of people who were there. That's why I'm glad that Julie Mayhew continued to wonder in her afterword if this was a story she should tell.

Was it her
Michelle (Fluttering Butterflies)
It was beautifully written and engaging, but I didn't connect emotionally to the story or characters.
Apr 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
With a mentally unwell mother and an otherwise occupied father, for seven years teenager Darya has been the only caregiver of her little sister, Nika. By every definition of the word and the heart, Darya has been Nika’s mom. When early on in the story a tragedy occurs, Darya’s walloped by a mother’s level of grief, compounded by the fact that Darya herself is still very much a child.

There were times I found Darya frustrating, times when I became annoyed with her for not making better choices, a
Disclaimer: I received this book for free from and Candlewick Press in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I respect what Julie Mayhew was trying to do with this book, but I don’t think it worked.

Mother Tongue is a fictional account of the family of one of the victims of the Beslan school siege in 2004. I will admit my ignorance – before reading this book, I was entirely unfamiliar with the event. Also, I was 14 and admittedly no
Annette Jordan
Mother Tongue by Julie Mayhew is an emotional and hard hitting book about grief and survival. It follows Darya, who at 18 is much older than her years. She has helped to raise her younger siblings since her mother essentially shut down after the birth of her last child, Nika who is just about to start school. This will be a new beginning for both Darya and Nika, and Darya dreams of moving to Moscow and becoming someone, getting a job in an office and being able to wear the kinds of clothes that ...more
I can remember how shocked I was back in 2004 at the news of a school that became overrun by terrorists and the end of that siege resulting in the death of several youngsters. While that is the setting and the starting point for this YA novel, the author chooses not to explore the violence and terrorism so much as the effects it had on those left behind. The protagonist, Darya Pavlovna, is 18 and has essentially reared her young sister, Nika, after her mother became mired in depression and was u ...more
Jun 11, 2020 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rachel Glass
May 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arcs
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Darya Ivanova is an eighteen-year-old girl who takes care of her seven-year-old sister Nika. Her mother never comes out of her bed since Nika has been born.

On the first school day of Nika something terrible happens. Nika doesn't survive. To Darya this is devestating as if her child died. Even though her mother never cared for Nika she suddenly needs to grieve as a mother. Darya can't hold on at home any longer, so she leaves to Moscow with some help of Jonathan (the American journalist Darya ha
Dec 28, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: review-books

When youngest sibling, Nika, is killed in a terrorist attack on the first day of school, Dasha is lost. She has lost her purpose after years of caring for her youngest sister. Trying to find comfort and love again this is a coming of age novel in the hardest sense.

Mother Tongue is a foreign story of sadness, loss and rising again. However, as a born and raised middle-class American I felt lost in the Russian references, settings and familiarity. Often books set in foreign lands, such as Exit Wes
Grief is a monster in its own right, and here we explore all the various responses to that complicated process. In the wake of a terrorist attack (details of the hows and whys are pretty fuzzy - this could be any kind of school shooting or similar event), the victims’ relatives must wait to hear if their loved ones have survived, they must deal with funerals and memorials, some emerge from mental illness, others channel their feelings into violence, and Darya finds she must leave her home to fin ...more
Philip S Davies
Jun 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
I read this with the Blackwell's Teen Fiction Reading Group in Oxford, and enjoyed it. I remember the news of the real-life tragedy in Beslan in September 2004, and so the story has an added poignancy. I couldn't help but feel sorry for Darya, not just because of her grief, but also because she was so lonely and misunderstood. No one seemed to notice that the loss of Nika affected her most of all, and that wasn't fair. I completely understood her desire to get away, thinking that Moscow held the ...more
Sally Flint
Oct 17, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017-reads
This was an enjoyable book to read and a well-written interpretation of the consequences of a real event - the Beslen shooting in Russia in 2004. The author's account of why she went ahead and wrote a fictionalised version of a real incident is interesting to read and gives validity to her exploration of the topic. The exploration of the main character and her loss and suffering is well portrayed; we care what happens to her. However, because of this, I found the ending very disappointing - say ...more
Isla-Grace Davies
Aug 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: goats
Mother Tongue is a heart-wrenchingly beautiful novel about loss and identity and I love it a lot. The premise seems almost too disappointing, you push through pages and pages of darkness for the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it glimmer of hope that dwindles in the final pages of the book. At its worst, Julia Mayhew’s writing is too pessimistic, but it works. This book taught me about a tragedy I had no idea existed in a country I know hardly anything about, but Mayhew wrote our eighteen-year-old protago ...more
Jessie Rae
May 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arcs
This book will rip out your heart and then stomp on it.
The Beslan school siege that happen in 2004 was so tragic i think Julie Mayhew did an amazing job capturing the heartache and sorrow (you can feel it through the pages and in the words of these characters)
The only way i can describe this story is the basicly the 5 stages of grief every character you come in contact with threw Darya’s eyes is going through these stages including Darya herself.

1.Denial & Isolation
Oct 11, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not what I was expecting when I started reading, but a well-written (though pretty damn depressing) story. I should probably give it 4 stars, but it was so sad. Even with the ending. Maybe even because of the ending, since that’s the part that didn’t ring as true.

If you’re interested in reading, don’t let my review stop you; it’s a solid read. I’m just not going to go out of my way to recommend it to anyone, either.
Jul 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a heavy book. While the setting is clear and well done there are many elements of the story that are so universal. The journeys of the characters and how they face what has happened and what will happen moving forward is so real and raw. Overall the book packs such an emotional punch.
Jan 05, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
A truly devastating novel about loss, identity and grief. I wasn't too familiar with the crisis in Beslan, but I appreciate that the novel was thoroughly researched. And that the author was respectful with such a sensitive topic.
Shannon Kernan
Feb 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: soyamrg, diversity
4.5-5 stars.

Gorgeously written YA novel, focusing on trauma, grief, what it means to be a family, and home. I will write a longer review soon.

Meanwhile, I'll say this: this book is something special.
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