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What I Carry

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  193 ratings  ·  62 reviews
For readers of Robin Benway's Far From the Tree, a powerful and heartwarming look at a teen girl about to age out of the foster care system.

Growing up in foster care, Muir has lived in many houses. And if she's learned one thing, it is to Pack. Light.
Carry only what fits in a suitcase.
Toothbrush? Yes.
Socks? Yes.
Emotional attachment to friends? foster families? a boyfriend?
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published January 21st 2020 by Random House Books for Young Readers
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Average rating 4.29  · 
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 ·  193 ratings  ·  62 reviews

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Sep 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: young-adult
4.5 stars - a beautiful story of nature. A story of friendship and finding it where you least expect it. Foster care is a subject that isn’t talked about enough in juvenile fiction. And I love the characters in What I Carry.
Nancy Fischer
Oct 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had the chance to hear Jennifer Longo speak at an NCIBA luncheon. Her presentation was funny, poignant and sincere. I picked up an ARC of her novel afterward... and was immediately hooked by the utterly unique voice and story.

In What I Carry, Jennifer Longo writes.... Exactly the right thing. Every single time.

This story about Muir, abandoned at birth, named by the nurses in the NICU, and her journey through the foster system and towards the chance to unpack, find love and home, is moving
I do not usually cry when I read books. I get misty...occasionally...but crying? Not so much. So it's saying a whole hell of a lot that when I finished this book I was sobbing. I love Muiriel. Love Francine. Love Sean and Kira and Terry Johnson. And the writing is the kind that makes you want to be a better writer. Hands down the best book I've read in 2019.

Jan 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaways
I received this book for free from Goodreads Giveaways.

This book gave me mixed feelings - on one hand, there were aspects I really liked, but on the other, I had some issues with it. Perhaps a pros and cons list will help better explain!


- Muir has been in foster care her entire life and she's developed her own coping mechanisms, which for her include never staying too long in one placement. I cannot even pretend to understand Muir's life, but to me it didn't make sense that she would choose
Feb 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 16-18, 14-15
A foster kid takes a walk in the woods and never comes back.

But seriously, this one is important. After a life spent in foster care, 17-year-old Muir(iel) is on the cusp of aging out and setting out on her own. Her social worker drops her off at her 20th placement—that’s right two-zero—and the people she meets turn her whole world upside down.

I’m going to be honest. It’s a bit heavy-handed at times.

Most conflicts are resolved within the span of a chapter. The connections between John Muir
Bree Janelle
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Amanda Cresse
Jan 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
The YA world needs this story.
Jan 14, 2020 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lily Maguire
Sep 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As the third of my summer reading books, I read What I Carry by Jennifer Longo. It follows Muir, seventeen year old girl who was worked through the foster care system her entire life, and is about to “age out” and be forced to live and provide for herself. She has been assigned to her final foster mother, a New York City woman who promises herself that Muir is her last foster child. Throughout her life, Muir has lived with a “no emotional baggage” policy. She makes it a priority to not get that ...more
Foster care and adoption are often nothing like the typical stories published about them. In this book, readers meet seventeen-year-old Muir who is close to aging out of the system, and learn about what it might be like to grow up in the foster care system. Although her case worker, Joellen, does her best to find the right placements for Muir, something always goes wrong. Lest readers assume that the problem is with Muir and her behavior, as she's grown older, she's the one who lets Joellen know ...more
Rhea Day
Jan 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

The only reason I initially picked this books was because the MC was a foster kid. I have a real soft spot for stories with foster kids, but they are really hit or miss (mostly misses). I have an issue with people who write about foster kids not having any experience being one themselves because it's always worst case scenario and there always needs to be some kind of savior. Of course I went into this books half expecting it
"It was the thought that it would be so nice to have help - her help - that made me cry harder. Because very soon, the second I aged out, I would have no help from anyone at all."

In movies foster kids are more often than not portrayed as troublemakers and/or have to endure endless abuse by their caregivers. I love that Jennifer Longo has listened to her daughter, who was born into foster care herself, and tells a different story here. It's about a girl who has been in the system all her life
Matt & Sarah Dressler
When I saw the summary of @jenlialongo ‘s newest novel, I knew it was one that not only did I want to read, but I wanted to have in my CLASSROOM.

WHAT I CARRY is the honest, beautifully written story of Muiriel’s time within the foster system. She has been in the system, through many surprises, and heartbreaking moments, with Joellen, her social worker, since Muiriel was an infant, and now she’s almost ready to age out. She’s learned to carry little with her from one house to the next, avoiding
Feb 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Muir has lived in many houses through her life as a result of growing up in foster care, she has learned one thing to always pack light. With her she only carries what she needs; clothes, a toothbrush, socks, and various items from the places she's left behind. She does not carry friends or any other emotional attachment, she has no room. She has one year left until she ages out of the system and is completely on her own. And then she moves into her final foster home with Francine, and she meets ...more
Kayla Minter
This one started out pretty strong but the more I read, the more I found that I didn't like. I was really intrigued by the character's perspective as a child in the foster system who is about to age out. Her unique point of view seemed promising and I was ready to learn about her experience.

First, Natan's character felt more like a caricature. He was ridiculous and not even remotely realistic. It would have been different if he was there for comedic purposes but that was not the case.

Then came
Jan 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't know how to express how well done and important this book is for foster kids/ foster families, teens and their parents, budding nature enthusiasts, educators, American citizens, and on and on and on...except to say that it is. It emphatically covers topics, systems, and prejudices that are so often misrepresented or ignored in fiction--but not in a violent or abrasive way. The language is poetry and the moments well-paced; the love is acute, but deep and movingly developed; the setting ...more
Feb 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
5 stars +++

This was amazing - fantastic - stupendous - incredible. I don't know that I have an adjective for how much I adored this book. I love foster care stories anyway. But the added piece of Muir preparing to age out of foster care - and all of the ways she has developed to prepare herself for that and protect herself for that - really grabbed my attention. There's a great balance here between Muir's internal processing and her history (told creatively through her thoughts on packing light
Feb 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you have an opportunity to read this book DO IT. Very thoughtful, insightful look at foster care. The main character has been in 20 foster care placements by the time she turns 17 and has 1 year left before she ages out of the system. At the beginning she has exactly 1 person in her life she can rely upon, her social worker Joellen. She gets placed with Francine, a woman who had decided to retire from fostering until she agrees to take Muiriel in to her home, on an island across from Seattle. ...more
Grace T
Jan 31, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars. Literally the only thing I'm docking for is language and some implications of off-screen stuff (also Natan is a fully certified creep). Holy cow I LOVED this book, and the motifs, and the island/nature imagery, and just watching Muiriel slowly accept that people can love her and she can love them and it's OKAY, and Sean is the softest most beautiful boy and they nerd out together and I am in love. This arc, this ship . . . I HEART IT.

(one tiny other thing i do object to is the
Margaret Willson
this book is honestly really beautiful. it's toast, friendships, brokenness, healing, nature, forests, strength, rawness, bats, and it's really... a journey?

the characters were deep and interesting and compelling and i am Living for Muir and Kira's friendship and Francine is such a queen <3. also can we talk about Terry Johnson? because <333
it's aesthetic is on point, stories set on islands? yes please
it's really powerful, shining lights in areas that don't get explored that often in
Feb 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was eye opening book for me. Muir, a 17 year old girl in foster care, is almost out of the system. She has tried everything possible to "NOT" fall in love with the families she has been with along the way. However, things become more difficult as she meets Francine, and all the others that she really starts to fall in love with as she is in her last phase. This really helped me understand a little more what kids go through, the things they carry with them, and just how feelings and emotions ...more
This is the story of Muiriel, a girl born into foster care and determined to be as well-behaved as possible in order to not get adopted.

It took until near the end of the book when it was actually explained for me to understand why Muir didn't want anybody to adopt her. It was frustrating to listen to all these people saying "we love you" to her and having her refuse to believe them. I've never been in her situation, so maybe I would feel the same if I had been.

The characters are introduced my
If you had told me, when I was about 30 pages into this book, that I was going to end up only giving it 2 stars, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. It started strong, got a little meh toward the middle, and then got so tangled up in its own woke-ness at the end, that I was physically rolling my eyes.

Also, with the exception of the main character, everyone was either perfect and amazing, or completely, one-dimensionally terrible. The terrible ones were almost caricatures. And the good
Laura Mauro
I really did like this read. This book did take a awhile to grow on me. I thought the structure in this book was not as clear to follow but intreating. i def grew to love this character as this book progreseed this book de was more a of see discovery novel that I feel tackled foster care issues in a very inspireing way. I really did enjoy the various side characters in this book and really loved how much character growth happened in this novel. It was a book that def brought the emotions and ...more
Jan 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is something you have to read. It’s one of those books that opens you to a world that you never thought to understand. It’s made me realize I had pre-conceived ideas of what the foster system was. It’s a beautiful and stunning story, I can’t say it enough. It so properly depicted cause and effect and how everything led up to who she was at 17 years old. It made me cry sad tears, but the best tears were the happy and hopeful ones. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. If you’re thinking about ...more
Sandy O'Brien
Feb 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
“... you’re living a life with people who matter.”
Muir had gone from foster home to foster home never letting herself become attached to any of the families. At the age of 17 she is placed in a foster home with Francine in a picturesque island town where she finally starts to feel at “home”. From making a best friend to getting her dream internship, Muir is doing all of the things she promised herself she wouldn’t do.... become attached to a place. Will she let herself be happy and feel at home
Samantha Kelley
Jan 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A book about about foster care? Sign me up!

Foster care is absolutely not talked about enough in literature. This book was heart wrenching and heart warming. I was rooting so hard for Muir to finally get her happy ending and let her guard down.

Also, Francine is the cutest old lady ever!

“I am only one of a half million kids in foster care in America, one of twenty-five thousand who will age out ..”
Feb 15, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
What to say...

I really don't know what to say about this book. I can't really decide how I feel about it. In some ways I feel like it was missing so much but in other ways that it was pure genius. I love some of stories behind all the things Muir carries from house to house but some of them fell flat for me and I found myself rushing to get through them. I loved the friendships between her Sean and Kira, but I didn't like much else.
Feb 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
LOVED LOVED LOVED this book. I read it in one sitting.

It's about finding a home and finding family and speaks so well to conflicting emotions, feeling out of place, and what it means to truly ask for what you want.

There aren't enough books that talk about foster and adoption and I'm so glad that Longo wrote this -- while also mixing in an artful storyline on the complexity of American history and race. I'm definitely going to be recommending this to everyone I know.
Bri Mash
Feb 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What I Carry was a very enjoyable read! The plot and characters were well developed, it was well written and very witty, but also she’d light on some of the more serious realities of the foster care system in America. Though it is a fiction book, the Author used the stories of her daughter and several others who have experienced life foster care, to develop Muiriel’s story. This book is funny and will also pull your heartstrings. It’s a good one! 4.5 stars from me! :)
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Jennifer Longo’s WHAT I CARRY (Penguin Random House) publishes Januray 21, 2020. Her debut novel SIX FEET OVER IT ("SUPERB" - Kirkus, Starred) published 2014 by Penguin Random House, Edited by Chelsea Eberly and represented by Melissa Sarver at Folio Literary. Her second novel, UP TO THIS POINTE ("SAVVY...VIVIDLY CONVEYED" The Bulletin, Starred) published 2016, also courtesy of Penguin Random ...more
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