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Where the Heart Is

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  105 ratings  ·  56 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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4.16  · 
Rating details
 ·  105 ratings  ·  56 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
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
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
Alex (not a dude) 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
Cheriee Weichel
Mar 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mustreadpost2020
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
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
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
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
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!
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.
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
Ms. Yingling
Jan 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Rachel's summer is not off to a good start; her parents don't remember her 13th birthday right away, and new neighbors move in across from her family's run down farm. They are very wealthy, and while Rachel is angry that their new home took away the sledding hill she always used, she is somewhat interested in a summer job taking care of their rescue animals, since it pays better and is less stressful than babysitting bratty young neighbors. She's glad of the money, since
Apr 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Life is tough. That’s what 13-year-old Rachel is learning. She loves her parents and (mostly) her little sister Ivy. She loves the farm where they live, even if it is a bit rundown. And she loves her best friend Micah. But things in her life are changing, and she’s not sure she’s ready.

For one, the kids from school are changing. Instead of just hanging out together and being friends, they are starting to become couples. Micah wants them to be a couple, but Rachel is confused. She wishes it were
I savored every line in this book and found myself marking several passages because of the compelling way in which they described the narrator's experiences. Rachel Gartner has just turned thirteen when this book opens. While summer promises carefree days for many youngsters, she goes to work for the family that just moved in up the hill. The Townsends are clearly quite well off, and it's hard for Rachel to avoid comparing their property with her family's own Bittersweet Farm as she takes care o ...more
Mar 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: arc
I got an ARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Overall, this was a quick read, although I wouldn't say it's either "light" or "fun". This book definitely deals with some hard topics, and seeing it all from the eyes of a 13yo girl makes them even harder. This is still a middle grade book, though, so there are a few things left undeveloped or unfinished, I guess because the publisher and/or the author wanted to keep it short for its audience.

What bothered me the most and
Jan 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Home is Where the Heart Is
By: Jo Knowles

I received a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

I wanted this book because I reviewed an earlier work by Ms. Knowles - Still a Work in Progress. It was a tremendous book and I’m still recommending it to people all this time later. This new book did not disappoint me.

The story centers around a young teen (Rachel) facing a lot of change in her life. The good news is that her best friend (Micah) is always there for her. She faces a wh
Esha Dickson
Mar 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
I was lucky enough to receive an eARC of this from @netgalley. ‘Where the Heart Is’ by Jo Knowles tells the story of 13-year-old Rachel and the ups and downs she faces one summer. The story begins with Rachel getting a new summer job helping take care of animals on the neighbour’s farm. From there we see her struggle with her feelings (or lack thereof) towards her best friend, Micah, and the fact that she doesn’t seem to like any boys. We also see the stress and strain placed on an entire family ...more
John Clark
Apr 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thirteen year old Rachel is conflicted about more than one thing. She's aware that things at home, the place her family calls Bittersweet Farm, are getting tenser by the day and she also is beginning to realize that something about her feelings of attraction are different, but she's not completely sure why or what it means. She and Micah have been best friends forever, predating the time they hid under a lilac bush and became engaged when they were six. Micah still feels the same way. Rachel lov ...more
J.L. Slipak
Apr 10, 2019 rated it liked it

I received this book in exchange for my honest review.

This is a middle-grade read, for ages 10 to 14.

I get that being thirteen involves many coming of age dilemmas. Ask any thirteen years old. The world is coming to an end. Peer pressure is at its worse, the need to fit in crucial beyond belief, family dynamics are changing, the need to separate self from the ties of the family begins to grow causing inner struggles between family and independence; and, bodies and hormones are develo
Nov 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
“When you learn vocabulary words in school, you memorize the definition. And you have a good idea of what the words mean. But it’s not until you feel them that you really grasp the definition. I have known what the word ‘helpless’ means for a long time. And ‘desperate.’ But I’ve never felt them. Feeling them is different. They fill your chest with a horrible sense of ‘dread’ and ‘guilt’ and ‘despair.’ Those are more vocabulary words that you can’t fully understand until you feel them. (246)

The s
K Gover
Feb 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Sweet story that depicts a young girl struggling with losing her home, friendships, growing up and adolescent emotions. Rachel is a responsible girl living on Bitter Sweet Farm near the ocean entering the summer before 8th grade. Her best friend Micah loves her, but she only love him like a friend. As she tries to figure out what/who makes her heart flutter like a hummingbird, her family is in financial distress. As her family loses their home, Rachel continues to care for her pony Rainbow as he ...more
Mar 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I requested the ARC because I was familiar with author Jo Knowles. A few years back I read See You At Harry’s which still pervades my mind at times. So I was ready for another heart filled story and boy does she deliver. This is a story of love and loss all under the headline of bittersweet. Bittersweet Farms is the name Rachel’s father has given their home, due to the lovely bittersweet vines that grow there. It’s is not a working farm, but the family does have a big garden and then there is Ra ...more
Mar 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Thanks to Candlewick Press for this advanced copy. In Jo Knowles' new story, the pressure before eighth grade fills up the main character Rachel's life. Starting with her thirteenth birthday and the first day of summer, she's ready for all the wonderful things summer can bring, like being with her best friend since kindergarten, Micah. As the days go by, each one brings new questions, both personal and in her family. She's excited about a new job caring for the farm animals for neighbors who've ...more
Abby Connor
Apr 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Jo’s writing always makes my heart so full. She just understands humans so well. Reading this, I felt so nostalgic for my childhood. All the sounds, and sights, and feelings of summertime were so prominent in every page. Micah and Rachel’s friendship was so special. Every time Micah was upset I thought he reacted exactly the way a thirteen year old boy would, but I loved that he never pulled out the “friend zone” card. They really did have a pure and true friendship that superseded any jealously ...more
Jan 29, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: review-books
Where the Heart Is tells the story of an adolescent, Rachel, in her summer between middle school and high school. While this is often a terrifying time for anyone, full of excitement and unknowns, Rachel’s summer is increasingly stressful as her family life unravels in front of her.

This read began to drag on in the day-to-day of Rachel’s life. The author successfully captured the friendship and relationships with Rachel’s sister, Ivy, and best friend, Micah, but failed to keep attention through
Mar 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arcs
Netgalley provided me a DRC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

My first Jo Knowles experience was reading See You at Harry's on an airplane (cut to me sobbing and the stewardess asking if I was okay). I've pretty much enjoyed all of her work since, and this newest offering is no exception.

Rachel and her family are dealing with some pretty severe financial struggles, and Rachel is struggling to find herself as she gets ready for eighth grade. Her best friend Micah is more than a little
Denese Anderson
Jan 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: middle-school, lgbtq
Where the Heart Is by Jo Knowles is a book about identity, family, and coming to terms with the way things are. Rachel (13) and Micah have been best friends since kindergarten and lately Micah has been hinting that his feelings are deeper than friendship. However, Rachel is not sure if she will ever have romantic feelings towards boys. This confusion grows when Cybil, another classmate, starts to take an interest in her. In addition, Rachel’s parents are having problems making ends meet this sum ...more
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
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Hi! I'm the author of 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. My newest book, Where The Heart Is, comes out on April 2! I'm available for school, library and book club visits either in person or via skype. For more info, please visit Thanks! :-)