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Forever, or a Long, Long Time

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From rising new talent Caela Carter, author of My Life with the Liars, comes an achingly beautiful and endearing story about two foster children who want desperately to believe that they’ve found their forever home. Perfect for fans of Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me, Leslie Connor’s All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook, and Sarah Pennypacker’s Pax.

Flora and her brother, Julian, don’t believe they were born. They’ve lived in so many foster homes, they can’t remember where they came from. And even now that they’ve been adopted, Flora still struggles to believe in forever. So along with their new mother, Flora and Julian begin a journey to go back and discover their past—for only then can they really begin to build their future.

336 pages, ebook

First published March 7, 2017

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About the author

Caela Carter

10 books326 followers
Caela Carter grew up in Basking Ridge, NJ and Baltimore, MD. She's been writing since she learned how to pick up a pen but before the writing thing got serious she spent six years teaching English to middle and high school students in Jacksonville, FL and Chicago, IL. Her debut novel, ME, HIM, THEM AND IT was published in 2013 by Bloomsbury. When she's not writing, Caela is a teacher of some awesome teens in Brooklyn, a Notre Dame football enthusiast, and a happy explorer in New York City.

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5 stars
1,158 (52%)
4 stars
781 (35%)
3 stars
230 (10%)
2 stars
27 (1%)
1 star
8 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 436 reviews
Profile Image for Alison.
Author 10 books211 followers
March 15, 2017
This book is spectacularly beautiful and insightful. I feel like my heart has been shredded and then carefully, lovingly pieced back together. Best middle grade I've read in a really long time!
Profile Image for steph .
1,232 reviews74 followers
January 13, 2018
I cried.

I cried, I cried, I cried.

It's been ages since I've cried at a children's book but Flora and Julian (and their story) just got to me. I love Flora and the way she looks at the world. Her and Julian learning to believe in forever? YES. ALL THE FEELS.

The adults in here were great too, really fleshed out especially when you consider this book is from the POV of a eleven year old I'd read more by this author except maybe not too soon, my heart hurts from this book but it's a good hurt. We need more kids books like this in the world - filled sadness and anger but also lots of love.
Profile Image for Destinee.
1,608 reviews151 followers
June 5, 2017
A moving book about the inner life of Flora, a girl who grew up in multiple homes through the foster care system. She is permanently adopted, along with her younger brother, at the age of nine. Flora and her brother Julian don't believe they were ever born. They think they never had a biological family. Now Flora is eleven years old and trying really hard to trust her new mom and believe that she and Julian will be with her forever. But she is held back by her ignorance of her own origins.

The subject matter is important and the writing is mostly very good, but I struggled with the length. There were a lot of unnecessary paragraphs. I'm generally a patient reader, but I skimmed big chunks of this that didn't seem relevant to the plot. I was eager to find out about Flora and Julian's past. The meandering pace left me frustrated.

I was ambivalent about the italicized interstitial "Theory #" pieces. Yes, they were lovely pieces of writing. But they weren't in Flora's voice. They were lyrical, poetic. They were in the first person plural, speaking for both Flora and Julian. I think they might have worked better in third person because it felt like the author's own voice taking over Flora's.

I also never understood why no one had access to Flora and Julian's birth certificates. I understand why they didn't have originals, but copies of birth certificates can be obtained from government records. It seemed like an obvious way to prove to Flora that she was born and to find the names of her birth parents. I kept waiting for someone to go there and no one did. Frustrating. Was there some mention of this that I missed?

The best part of this book, I think, is that it explores an experience that is sadly common but not represented well in children's literature. The book is certainly critical of the foster care system, but didn't feel overly didactic (though it did tread close when they got to Jeannie the meanie). I think young readers will sympathize with Flora (even when she punches someone) and Julian (even when he's hiding food in his closet). Definitely a worthwhile read.
Profile Image for Emily Pool.
145 reviews11 followers
September 15, 2018
This book broke my heart and then pieced it back together in such a beautiful way. What an gorgeous story of fostering and adoption. Cried cried cried.
Profile Image for Amy.
1,070 reviews34 followers
September 9, 2017
OOOF, this was a hard one. There were a few times when reading it that I had to put it down so I could try to emotionally process what was happening and then I had to realize that the characters (11 and 9) were also dealing with these things, and that these issues happen EVERY DAY in real life, and then I would pick it up and keep going. Because I had to find out what happened to Flora. And I desperately wanted to know her story and how it would end.

Flora and Julian were adopted two years ago by Emily, but as kids who lived through the foster care system and suffered unknown traumas, they still have a hard time believing Emily when she says they are together forever. And now Emily is pregnant, so there will be even more changes. As Flora and Julian struggle to understand what it means to be a family and where they come from, they are taken on a journey to learn about their past.

This coming of age story deals with the realities of trauma for children. This was gritty while also being endearing. You want to laugh at times while you are crying. You can see the adults in this novel and you can hear the children's inner thoughts. Highly recommend.
Profile Image for Carol (Reading Ladies).
682 reviews157 followers
January 7, 2018
3 stars. Parts of it I enjoyed (Flora’s complex range of feelings and reactions were informative and noteworthy and mom’s ability to do the hard work of bonding was inspirational and admirable).
I wondered at times who was the intended audience? Some of the story seemed to be geared toward adults (somewhat overly pedantic at times)......and I wonder how well middle grade students relate to a 4th grade main character. Flora seemed to express her thoughts as an adult at times and I felt like we were hearing the author’s words rather than a child’s. It also seemed to me that the reason for writing the book was agenda driven.
Overall I’m glad to have read this story because it makes one more aware of the unspoken feelings, concerns, bonding issues, and emotional struggles of adopted/foster care children.
For other reviews visit my blog at readingladies.com
Profile Image for Mayla.
38 reviews
May 11, 2018
Two "only's" Flora and her brother are foster kids who bounce around families all the time. But when they're ready to learn about their past their "forever" mother doesn't know if she's ready.
I absolutely fell in love with the characters in this book. I could hardly put it down for a hot minute.
440 reviews17 followers
April 9, 2017
Newbery peanut gallery, we need to talk about this one. I feel like lots of books have tried something like this over the years, but they are all basically The Great Gilly Hopkins but not as good. This one isn't Gilly and, incredibly, it might be almost as good.
Profile Image for Gabrielle Schwabauer.
291 reviews21 followers
July 30, 2018
Everything about this book was superb. I am not usually impressed by books about adoption, foster care, and trauma, but boy did this story surpass my expectations.
Profile Image for Crayola B..
49 reviews6 followers
January 4, 2018
Some books are the right book at the right time.

And sometimes, even when you think a book is a window into a different life, it ends up being more of a mirror.

This one was both. So even though it kind of stomped on my soul a little bit (okay, a lot), I forgive it, because it's a story about trauma and change and trust, but it's a realistically hopeful one. Things don't magically get better. But people get better at dealing with things, and some problems hurt less when you face them.

I loved this book. It's beautifully written and accessible and understandable. It translates a strange, confusing foster system and the struggles of healing from emotional trauma into words that form a compelling story with characters who are, for both better and worse, completely human and real.

This isn't exactly an easy read, but it was the right read for me, today, as I'm struggling with changing things in my own life. But that's not what most people care about.

Will this still be a good book a year from now, when my life is different yet again?

I very much believe so.
January 17, 2021
I'm not really sure I have the right words for this book. There's no way for me personally to sum up what I think beyond this. It's about a girl learning to be part of a family, to be with people. It's about trauma, family, childhood, love. It's an incredible book.

Forever, or a Long Long Time is about two adopted children, who have lived in foster care most of their lives that have to learn to be part of a family, to be with people. To get to that point they go searching into the past to discover what they don't remember. Where they come from, who has loved them and how they were found by their adoptive mother.This story is heart-wrenchingly beautiful and precious. It's about trauma, family, childhood, love. Follow Flora and Julian on a journey to find trust and accept their forever home.
Profile Image for Ali❤️reading.
29 reviews6 followers
April 7, 2023
*5 stars*

This book made me so emotional multiple times. It was just so beautiful! This book really made me realize how hard adoption can be, and how lucky I am to have two loving parents. Just breathtaking middle grade....
Profile Image for Amber Robinson.
32 reviews1 follower
May 16, 2021
A really impressive dive into the effects of childhood trauma wrapped into a good story. It’s an example of how sometimes fiction is truer than non-fiction. The portrayal of the kids’ thoughts, behaviors, struggles, etc. due to trauma is definitely enlightening and tracks with my foster parent training. But this book would never work as non-fiction because a kid from trauma could never articulate it and a parent would never have the depth of insight. Definitely recommend to people trying to understand kids from hard places.
Profile Image for DaNae.
1,433 reviews74 followers
May 13, 2017
Meaty content, but this book often felt like it was about the content.

This is just one more in a line of 2017 books where I feel I'm being educated about an issue. There is a lot to like here, and Flora and Julian's story is compelling, but in the end it kind of felt like a course in detachment disorder 101.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for &#x1f319;~Carden~&#x1f319;.
527 reviews37 followers
October 22, 2020
I dont know what to think about this book.

It’s not a favorite, I know that. This book doesn’t have the magical charm that The Turning or emotion that The Whispers had.

And it wasn���t like the other ones I read where it was still fun and enjoyable.

It did have the potential to be though.

The title and the cover looked absolutely beautiful and I knew from the start that I would fall into the pages of this story and love it for what it was. I didn’t. I liked it though, just not as much as I wanted to.

And I felt a lot of emotions that seemed to try to convey their effects. The loss of family and trying to belong in one. What it takes to love someone. All of the themes in this story touched me, but it didn’t really touch my heart.

Flora is a great narrator but sometimes her thoughts get tangled up and she felt confusing. Her brother felt real though and I loved the way their relationship was put down to the pages. They were both great main characters (even though Flora is the protagonist.)

The ending made me feel a little confused and left with a few questions. But overall, I can say that this book was fun to read.
Profile Image for Tiffany.
505 reviews91 followers
April 3, 2021
This book was so impactful. It’s not one to read for enjoyment, because it’ll rip your heart out, but I thought it was an honest yet hopeful look at life after adoption for foster kids. There will always be hurdles and always be doubts because of the trauma, but the great love in this book was beautiful.
Profile Image for Lindsi (Do You Dog-ear?).
713 reviews179 followers
November 24, 2021
"There are more letters and more words. They're building up inside me but they refuse to leave my body. They jam on top of each other like a million-car pileup on the freeway until my face is hot and my throat is sore and I know that when I finally do cry it won't be tears falling out of my eyes but letters."

When we went to the library our goal had been to find Artemis Fowl, but someone else had already checked it out. Lucky us! Forever, or a Long, Long Time was a really interesting story that explored the difficulties foster children face, and the lasting effects of being in the system.

Flora had trouble expressing her thoughts and feelings with words. She's capable of talking, but would sometimes float away from a conversation. I enjoyed reading about how she perceived herself, because she is incredibly smart. She would often mention "lung filters" and how her words would get stuck behind them, but occasionally would spill out if they weren't working. She was able to think so clearly, yet she struggled to communicate with everyone except Julian (who hides food in his closet because he's afraid he'll go hungry again).

It was heartbreaking when Flora misunderstood a situation and thought she was to blame. She was always worried that their new mom would stop loving them if she wasn't good enough. Flora and Julian were constantly waiting to be moved again, so there were a lot of ups and downs that went with that. Sometimes they threw tantrums and did awful things, and other times they were trying to be perfect so their new parents wouldn't send them away. I hated that they felt like they were to blame for their circumstances, and that they struggled to believe their mom when she promised them they would be with her forever.

It was even worse when the family started researching Flora and Julian's past. Their paperwork had been lost and never recovered, so their adoptive mother knew very little about their previous homes. They took a trip and tried to backtrack through all the places they'd lived, and some of the things they discovered were shocking and left me feeling angry and frustrated. They're children.

Forever, or a Long, Long Time was a wonderful story about learning to trust again and believing in a future where forever means something. I think the author did a great job of highlighting some of the issues foster children are facing today, and discussing some of the conditions they are forced to live in. These children have done nothing wrong and deserve to be loved and appreciated for who they are. It's sad how many of them end up somewhere worse than where they started. Flora and Julian were lucky, but a lot of children in foster care never find new families.

I loved the random theories throughout the book. Flora and Julian didn't believe that they had been born, so they made up different theories about where they came from. An example would be, "We come from the chaos, my brother and me. We were born out of the screams of other kids. We're made of their tears. We grew from their temper tantrums. We will never escape the chaos because it's what brought us to life in the first place."

I really did enjoy this one, and I like that the author told the story from Flora's perspective. It was unique and very eye-opening.
Profile Image for Becky.
8 reviews15 followers
March 23, 2018
I'm struggling with this one...In one sense I found it compelling and heartbreaking following the journey of two children from foster care into their "forever" home. However on the other hand I struggled with feeling that there were elements that seemed overly simplified and stereotypical. I wouldn't categorize this book as a "pleasure" read but it may be hopeful to some children who have had similar experiences. The last bit I struggled with was the author is white and writes about neglected children of color. I don't know her connection to children in foster care and children of color but wonder where she feels she can give them a voice, otherwise it seems to be a bit of the "white savior" element to me which I found deeply unsettling.
Profile Image for MaryBeth's Bookshelf.
391 reviews91 followers
February 19, 2018
First, thank you to the Diverse Book Club for recommending this book. It broke my heart and made me hopeful. Love is more powerful than anything else in the world. I can not recommend this book enough, especially for families/children that have been through the adoption process.

I feel like Flora, in that my words are "stuck." This book was so beautifully written, I cried so many times. My heart broke for Flora and Julian's pain and it broke for Emily (Person) who fought so hard to keep her family together, to make them feel safe, and help them discover the missing pieces of their past..

Profile Image for Sara-Zoe Patterson .
748 reviews9 followers
September 6, 2018
I started crying on page 3 and didn't stop bawling until I reached the end of the book 5 hours later. I loved this book. This book is so so well written, with wonderful characters you want to know forever. The author did such an amazing job writing Flora, the main character. She is so complex with so much going on ... but it adds up so well. The depth of the complexity and sadness mean I'm not sure who I would hand this book to - it's probably more middle school even though Flora behaves like an authentic 4th grader.
Profile Image for Anne.
206 reviews
January 26, 2018
I loved this book. The characters, the writing, the story, they all were so beautiful. I couldn’t read this book in public because there were always tears in my eyes. This books touches on a great deal of truth in the foster care world and will build empathy in any reader. A story of love and family and hope. Read it!
Profile Image for Afoma (Reading Middle Grade).
618 reviews335 followers
March 21, 2021
This story is so beautifully written. The prose is lusher than many adult novels I’ve read. Author Caela Carter paints a picture of the foster care system so unflinching that this book is difficult to read at multiple points. Yet, that is what makes the story hard to put down. Full review here
Profile Image for Lana.
322 reviews21 followers
January 8, 2020
This was an interesting story about siblings that spent years in the foster care system before getting adopted. It’s told from the perspective of the 2 siblings. Even though they have a loving family now, the two still struggle everyday with life changes such as a new baby on the way or graduating from the 4th grade and saying to goodbye to friends and teachers.
Profile Image for Christine Indorf.
730 reviews122 followers
July 7, 2022
A 4.5. I am in love with Caela Carter writing and this one was wonderful. I never knew what children went through when they faced drama at an early age and this book showed this with the 2 children. The love the adopted parents showed was beautiful. I highly recommend this book especially if you do have children faced with these conditions. Highly recommend!!
Profile Image for RuthAnn.
1,297 reviews178 followers
January 3, 2018
Strongly recommended for kids and adults

Oh, man, this book is so hard and so good. Flora's perspective as a child of foster care and now adoption is riveting, and her voice is so strong. Reading her insecurities and fears was anguishing, and it rang true. It struck me how tenuous life was for her and her brother; they could never fully relax and rest on something solid. I also appreciated how Flora and Julian struggled in different ways: Flora couldn't always form her thoughts into words, and Julian hoarded food. It made me think about how easy it is to reduce people's (especially kids') behavior into simple terms. I could imagine myself meeting Flora and saying things like, "Don't be shy, Flora!" when it wasn't about shyness at all. We can't draw conclusions from simple appearances. And then, I was really affected by the different depictions of foster homes, in a similar way. Some homes appeared to be messy and potentially damaging, but they were actually loving. Others had all the materials needs met but were devoid of love. The end of this book is not tidy, and I'm glad about that. It's hopeful and optimistic, but you can see that the family still has a lot of work to do.


We believe in Forever. We do. But our belief is thin. It's a tightrope suspended above a deep, dark canyon. We stand on it and wobble. The minute someone shakes the rope, we could fall into the dark abyss of foster care. (23)

I like it when she [Person] says these things and kisses me but I always duck away from it because I'm afraid there's going to be a day when she doesn't say those things or kiss me anymore. It's when the best things are happening that it's hardest to believe in Forever. (37)

It used to be foster care was what was wrong with me. But foster care ended almost two years ago and I'm still wrong and broken. I feel wrong-er and broken-er than I did last week, even. (121)

I'm almost crying now. Because for Person the waiting was over in that minute. But Julian and I were waiting when we got here. Waiting to have to go away again. Waiting to not be here anymore. Waiting for something bad. (147)

For the first time in my life, I feel lucky. Lucky to have found people who choose to remember only the good parts of me and not how angry I am and how hard it is for me to talk and how I'm someone from nowhere. (238)
Profile Image for Marathon County Public Library.
1,470 reviews46 followers
October 18, 2017

How can Flora ever believe in forever? After being shuttled from foster home to foster home longer than she or her brother Julian can even remember, how can she trust her new mother (who she calls Person because there have been way too many mothers) after they are adopted and promised a forever home. Carrying scars from their past, Flora has trouble getting her words out and her brother hides food in his closet, lots of food, as an assurance he won’t go hungry. As they are both trying their hardest to be" lovable", Person and her husband announce that they are expecting a new baby. How will there ever be enough love to go around, especially since this baby is their natural born child, not like them? After all, they don’t even remember being born and are convinced that they weren't. I will admit this achingly realistic, rewarding tween story of love, trust and family, told through Flora’s eyes, was a difficult (but hopeful) emotional journey. At times I just wanted to stop reading as I felt my heart breaking, yet I couldn't put it down.

Sharyn H. / Marathon County Public Library
Find this book in our library catalog.
Profile Image for Linda .
3,780 reviews43 followers
November 27, 2017
This story is both heartbreaking and heartwarming, sometimes sweet, often shocking. The journey that Flora and Julian have lived, are living with their now supposed-to-be-forever family hangs on until an ending. Carla Carter, rightly so, allows Flora to tell the story and also lets her interpret Julian's feelings and actions along with Person's (the name she gives her new mom, Dad's and Elena's (Dad's girl from a former marriage). There were times I wanted to shout, "no", that isn't what that means, but to a young girl who's lived with four other "moms", I'm not sure I would know what I would feel like. I do personally have some connections in my family, adopted children, of all ages, and each has a story to discover and know. Every single person, middle grade up to adult, needs to read this story, to learn about different kinds of growing up, and perhaps to understand when it often seems very hard to understand.
Profile Image for Brandy Painter.
1,633 reviews251 followers
April 4, 2017
Flora and her brother Julian spent years in the foster care system and were kids who fell through the cracks of the bureaucracy. They have been with their forever mom for two years now, but when she announces she is having a baby Flora and Julian begin to wonder if there will still be a place for them. They also begin to question where they came from. Their mom takes them on a journey to discover their past and build their family. The book is told in Flora's first person voice and it is really well done. Flora has a hard time expressing herself but is super smart. Her internal monologue reads as incredibly real. All the characters here are wonderful and Carter handles the challenges of blending families and kids with trauma both frankly and delicately. This is a good book for kids who enjoy introspective reads about family and bonding.
2,384 reviews135 followers
August 16, 2017
If you want a taste of the foster-child experience in America, of the adoptive-parent experience, of love in all its confusing complexity, here you go. It's not easy, no kid adopted out of foster care ever immediately says "Oh, well, I've been adopted, all my problems are solved and my behavioral issues settled", there are foster parents who treat it as a child-care business and wanna-be adoptive parents who decide the child isn't "grateful enough" for the opportunity they're offering. Love is hard. Trust is hard. Coming to believe that you are a real person whose wants and desires matter, and that you no longer have to be extra-good or extra-accommodating just to have something resembling a normal life, is hard.

I want to pass this book out at adoptive-parent classes and foster-parent training seminars, that's how good it is. You'll probably cry at least once, but a good cry.
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