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What I Carry

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  248 ratings  ·  82 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 4.32  · 
Rating details
 ·  248 ratings  ·  82 reviews

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Sep 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Oct 31, 2019 added it
Shelves: favorites, 2019
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.

Margaret Willson
Feb 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 14, 2020 rated it liked it
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
Jan 17, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Feb 11, 2020 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
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
Amanda Cresse
Jan 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The YA world needs this story.
Feb 05, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, reviewed, ya, 2020
Three and a half stars. I was so eager to read this, because I loved Longo's first two books, but this...felt a bit more generic? Which is odd, because the emphasis on Muir isn't generic, and the entire point of the book is to provide the type of story about foster care that isn't often told. I think I just ended up wishing for more development for some of the other story lines: stuff happens (bullying, a creepy coworker, etc.), but it feels more secondary than I'd like. (Or afterthoughty? ...more
Jan 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 14, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lindsi (Do You Dog-ear?)
Feb 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite, arc, possess
I received an ARC as a gift. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

What I Carry was a brilliant, fantastic read! I am so happy and thankful my #otspsecretsister gifted it to me! Before receiving it in one of my boxes, I wasn't aware this book even existed, which is a tragedy, since it was absolutely perfect for me. I'm a fan of John Muir and his accomplishments, so all the snippets and quotes from his life and
I thought this was a touching and emotional story about a teen on the edge of aging-out of the foster care system. With this book, I want to discuss the age appropriateness, the overall book, and miscellaneous points.

Age Appropriateness
If this book did not have f-words then I feel it would be appropriate for older middle school grades as a general statement. There was some emoji innuendos and a discussion about what to use for sex that could be pushing it, but it was overall not graphic.

Lily Maguire
Sep 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
Rhea Day
Jan 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing

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
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
Kathy Meulen Ellison
Feb 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bainbridge
Disclosure: I live on the island that is the setting for Jennifer Longo's amazing book.

What I Carry is about a girl who is less than a year away from aging out of the foster care system. This is a book that needed to be written and deserves to have many readers.

Muiriel (Muir for short) was named by the nurses for the hospital where she was born, which was named after the famous naturalist John Muir. Her birth mother was addicted to meth and gave her up for adoption. Since then, she's been in
Jan 14, 2020 rated it really liked 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
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
Feb 14, 2020 rated it liked it
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
I bought this as a book gamble. What can I say, that gorgeous color just called to me.

And the story inside it perfectly matches the cover--there is so much to it.

Muir's voice just sings as the story grows. She is all tough-exterior-fiercely-protecting-the-gooey-insides. Though I've never spent any time in foster care, her story hit me deeply, and I loved how each of the things she carried from foster-home to foster-home revealed something so pure and deep and vulnerable. Just pulled at my
Feb 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book was important, poignant and at the same time pretty funny. While Muir was struggling to learn to trust the relationships she built with Kira, Francine and Sean were all adorable and showed her just how powerful a found family could be if she would open herself up to love. I know this book is not totally own voices, but reading the author's note was important for understanding, not just her motives in writing the story but the perspective from which she approached a sensitive and ...more
Feb 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Feb 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
An excellent addition to topical YA on the experience of foster kids. WHAT I CARRY is set in the PNW, in Seattle and on Bainbridge Island, and I felt connected to the story immediately.

Traveling to Bainbridge Island, Muiriel learns that this next home is her last placement. She has to make it a year and then she ages out of foster care; she'll be on her own, independent, finally free. She doesn't expect to settle in but life on the island starts to make staying feel real. There's Kira, the
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
Donny J.
Feb 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is going to be a little heavy . . .

I FUCKING love this book.

My brother, no longer alive, was a foster. He was my best friend to begin with, and in the end, he became so much more and I will never forget him as a friend, but more so as my brother.

This book is so beautifully written and layered with such depth; I often found myself bewildered at the reality in front of me, on these pages. I saw pieces of my brother within Muir and everything she battled with in the story. From the I love
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Jennifer Longo’s WHAT I CARRY (Penguin Random House "A NOVEL OF NUANCE AND HUMANITY” -Kirkus, Starred) published 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) ...more
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