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Where the Heart Is

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  473 ratings  ·  133 reviews
If home is where the heart is, what would happen if you lost it? Compassion and humor infuse the story of a family caught in financial crisis and a girl struggling to form her own identity.

It’s the first day of summer and Rachel’s thirteenth birthday. She can’t wait to head to the lake with her best friend, Micah! But as summer unfolds, every day seems to get more complica
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published April 2nd 2019 by Candlewick
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Average rating 3.89  · 
Rating details
 ·  473 ratings  ·  133 reviews

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Wendi Lee
Mar 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
*4.5 stars*

It's hard to be thirteen. Rachel is trying hard to enjoy her summer, but she knows that her parents are struggling to make ends meet, and her best friend, Micah, is being weird. He wants them to be more than friends, but Rachel doesn't feel that way about Micah ... maybe not that way about any of the boys she knows. She just wants everything to be the way it was (not perfect, but comfortable), but nothing stays the same.

Instead, a wealthy couple moves in next door, and Rachel begins
Canadian Reader
In this middle-grade novel, the summer holidays have begun and Rachel, who’s just turned thirteen, finds her life to be in unsettling flux. Due to the town’s budgetary constraints, her mother has recently lost her job as the local high-school librarian, and the family is suffering as a result. Even before this, finances were tight. Rachel’s and her younger sister Ivy’s clothes (to Rachel’s shame) have always come from thrift stores; the two ride junky, rattling old bikes; and gifts have often be ...more
Jan 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Good Read!
Eh, another one I was kind of bored by. There was a fair amount going on and none of it seemed totally wrapped and/or wrapped up too quickly. Also, I probably should've done a deep dive for spoilers, but I was kind of wishing (view spoiler) ...more
Alex  Baugh
It's the first day of summer and Rachel Gartner's 13th birthday. But this year it appears that her family, including younger sister Ivy, 8, have forgotten. Instead of the usual birthday pancakes, there's a welcoming pie in the oven...for the new neighbors just moving in. Later that night, however, Rachel is surprised to see her birthday wasn't forgotten after all, and that her present is an almost new, better-than-the-old-one bicycle, cleaned, repaired and greased by Ivy. Getting a second-hand p ...more
Gary Anderson
Mar 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
No one knows everything, so when we don’t understand something, we rely on experts or our own intuition. In Where the Heart Is (Candlewick Press), the new novel from Jo Knowles, 13-year old Rachel is starting summer vacation by having trouble understanding her own feelings about boys and girls, especially her best friend Micah and her new friend Cybil. Rachel’s family is also struggling financially. She knows their situation is bad, but she can’t get a grasp on exactly how bad.

Rachel also has a
Lynn Plourde
Apr 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved this story--quiet, powerful, believable. It focuses on two topics that are not often explored in middle grade fiction . . . Q-the Questioning part of LGBTQ (as 13-year-old Rachel questions her sexuality) . . . and poverty (second-hand clothes, food insecurity, and the family is in danger of having their house foreclosed upon--a great book to pair with "The Benefits of Being an Octopus"). The characters are complex and feel real. The writing is understated, yet beautiful. Bravo, Jo Knowle ...more
Mar 24, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Where the Heart is, is a slow building middle grade novel about a girl named Rachel and her family during the summer of her thirteenth birthday. Rachel, like most girls her age are struggling with so many different feelings and emotions. Her long time, best friend Micah wants to be more than just friends, but Rachel doesn’t feel the same way and this causes tension between them. She has also seen her parents stress out over money all summer and she isn’t sure what’s going to happen to her home o ...more
May 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Oh, the struggles of the 13 year old. Life is hard, even for some young people. I love Jo Knowles writing, and I enjoyed my time with these characters. I'm very glad to have won this through a Librarything giveaway.
Cheriee Weichel
Mar 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was lucky enough to get to read this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

There is a lot going on in this new novel by Jo Knowles. Much of it will rip your heart out before letting it begin to mend. It had me bawling my eyes out at times – for Rachel, for her family and almost, for a pig.

Rachel, her younger sister, Ivy, and their parents have lived on Bittersweet Farm for as long as Rachel can remember. Circumstances beyond all their control: their mother losing her teacher l
John Gilbert
Aug 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a wonderful story of friendships and family seen through the eyes of a young adolescent girl named Rachel. She lives on a semi rural property with her parents and younger sister Ivy, just down the road from her best friend since forever Micah and her pet pony. Rachel scores a summer job with her new neighbours feeding their small group of farm animals including horses, chickens, sheep, goats, a mean pig and a young steer. She and Micah go to the nearby beach on their bikes nearly every ...more
A coming of age story about accepting who you are, and the sad realities of what happens when a family member loses a job. Students who want to meet a character who is exploring gender identity and personal relationships will love Where the Heart Is. I am adding this book to my collection of social issue book club choices for grades 5 and 6.
Ian Tymms
Nov 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
My heartstrings have been pulled. A beautifully crafted novel that draws together multiple Middle School appropriate themes and a narrative that is compelling and engaging. Will definitely be getting copies for our classrooms.
Oct 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Rachel is 13 at the beginning of summer vacation and it's going to be a year of change for her. She's at that age where boys and girls start noticing each other and she's not sure how she feels, she just knows that she is not is love with her best friend, Micah, much as he might wish her to be. Her family is also having some financial problems and her parents aren't doing a very good job of keeping that fact from the kids. Rachel would like to help out, but her summer job taking care of neighbor ...more
Jeanie Phillips
Sep 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jo Knowles writes family so well! This book, like See You at Harry's, pulled my heartstrings. It would make a great third thing to discuss the economic hardships so many Vermont families are facing. A fabulous middle grades read.
PinkAmy loves books, cats and naps
***Thanks to NetGalley for providing me a complimentary copy of WHERE THE HEART IS by Jo Knowles in exchange for my honest review.***

Rachel’s summer isn’t going as planned. Her parents are fighting about money, her best friend Micah has feelings for her and Rachel is stuck babysitting her little sister Ivy. As financial concerns grow, she worries they’ll become homeless.

Jo Knowles had a way of getting to the heart of issues that affect kids in an organic manner that never feels like A Very Impor
I had the opportunity to read a NetGalley digital ARC of this middle grade novel in exchange for a review. Just in time for summer, this story opens on the first day of summer on Rachel’s thirteenth birthday. Just the fact that she has all of summer rolling out in front of her seems like an amazing birthday gift. But as the hot, lazy days play out, she has more stress and tension than fun, playful times.

Middle grade kids will definitely be able to relate to the problems that seem to pile up in R
Amber K.
Mar 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I adored thirteen-year-old Rachel, the main character in this book, her spunky eight-year-old sister Ivy and her best friend Micah that has had a lifelong crush on her. Rachel’s family is struggling financially and Rachel is trying to do her part and be the strong oldest child and big sister. However Rachel is also struggling with her identity and realizes a few things about herself that’s she’s confused by. I absolutely loved how Jo Knowles tackles the challenge of a young teenager with an iden ...more
Apr 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a heartwarming coming of age story that will resonate with readers of all ages. It gives credit to a young girl's struggle of discovering who she is, growing up, and dealing with family issues. There were times when my heart broke and times when I laughed out loud. Middle schoolers are sure to enjoy this book!
Chris Tebbetts
May 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes, simple is better than anything. This book is beautifully rendered without the bells and whistles of a high-concept plot or flashy main character. I'm always impressed when an author can keep me eagerly turning pages while at the same time telling a "quiet" story like this one. I loved this book, beginning to end; loved its honesty, its humor, and the way it captured how simple and complicated life can be at the same time.
Leonard Kim
Sep 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Listened to audiobook. As I was listening, I wavered on what I would rate this. I probably would have settled on four stars. But then the scene with the cooler near the very end made me laugh a long time. I am an awful person.
Beth Honeycutt
Apr 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’m a big Jo Knowles fan. This is another emotional and heartfelt story of hers.
Mar 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: middle-grades, fdr
This is the kind of "tough issues" book that middle-grade readers often need. The girl main character (Rachel) is a loving sister, has a boy best friend, and a job caring for farm animals. She's positive and upbeat although her family is struggling financially and she is becoming confused about new feelings within her friend group.

I was surprised to find myself getting teary a couple of times - a sign of great character development, I think, because her emotions felt so raw and real.

Hand this
Feb 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lgbtq, middle-grade
I absolutely adored this book. Jo Knowles tackles critical issues that are not as common in middle grade literature. The Rachel’s family faces foreclosure of their house—a home in which she is deeply rooted. She feels as if a piece of her identity will be lost. Further, she is experiencing many emotions regarding her sexuality. She is questioning, and those around her are placing pressure on her to make a choice. I’d love to use this book in the classroom setting. The coming of age issues are ve ...more
Dec 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful and effusive novel about family, friendship and identity, Where the Heart Is tackles the crises of a new teenager with clarity and compassion. As Rachel’s thirteenth summer implodes with family hardships, a surprising new job, and weird tension with friends, you’ll reminisce with and root for Rachel as she fights to overcome every new challenge the summer brings.
Mar 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jo Knowles is one of my favorite YA/MG authors.  Her books are realistic and don’t sugar coat difficult situations.  This one made me cry. Twice! The book addresses poverty and sexual identity in a simplified way that is perfect for MG readers.  Rachel’s family doesn’t have lots of money so her clothes come from thrift stores and she feels so much shame that it broke my heart.  I connected with the main character, Rachel, and her love of animals. My favorite parts of the book were when she went ...more
Kirsti Call
Jan 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: publisher
This coming of age story masterfully written by Jo Knowles is filled with humor, teenage angst, friendship, loyalty, financial issues, class, sexual identity, sibling love, work, and uncertainty.

Rachel is a 13 year old girl who is not quite sure where she fits in. Rachel makes money working for her neighbors and taking care of their farm animals. When she can't muster the courage to be the pig's "FERN", she grapples with the death of the pig, her feelings of loss when the house forecloses, and
Kelly Hager
Apr 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Can we first acknowledge that Jo Knowles is one of the best middlegrade authors today? I loved this book so much and it feels incredibly timely.

There are a lot of heavy topics in this book and they're all handled with grace and sensitivity (as I would expect). I loved Rachel and her relationships with her parents and little sister, Ivy. She's a really good kid and she's genuinely caring and empathetic. She is definitely confused about her romantic leanings, but she also just sort of feels like s
Anna Karwowska
Jul 29, 2019 rated it it was ok
There is a disproportionate amount of bathroom humor for the intended reading age (middle school), making for a disjointed narrative. Also very repetitive at times, creating a slog of a story. It talks about an important issue (foreclosure), but also diminishes the reality of farm life and raising livestock for food.
Nov 27, 2018 rated it it was ok
My reaction to this novel is lukewarm. On the plus side, I appreciated the topic of financial difficulties. I think many youngsters can probably relate to the unwelcome changes that occur in Rachel's life as a result of her parents' money woes. Additionally, the book describes how Rachel's relationship with her best friend, Micah, changes as she turns thirteen. This is often the case as children grow older; friends come and go as interests veer in different directions.
However, the main problem I
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Hi! I'm the author of Where The Heart Is,Still A Work In Progress, Read Between The Lines, Living With Jackie Chan, See You At Harry's, Pearl, Jumping Off Swings, and Lessons From A Dead Girl. I'm available for school, library and book club visits either in person or via Zoom. For more info, please visit Thanks! :-) ...more

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