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What I Carry

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  1,746 ratings  ·  370 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 4.28  · 
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 ·  1,746 ratings  ·  370 reviews

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Jul 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: library-2, favorites
OMG, I LOVED this book!! What a delight. Wonderful and quirky—full of small moments in a coffee shop with raspberry jam and toast, and a dog you just want to cuddle up with. Plus awesome friend relationships! Muir, short for Muiriel, has spent her entire life in foster care. It’s been a rough road. She’s got her case worker, who she’s close to, and over the years has learned getting attached to anyone is a dangerous thing. Now at seventeen, she’s going to her last placement before she’ll age out ...more
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.

Stephanie Fitzgerald
Jul 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Y.A. readers and older
Setting: Modern-day Washington State
Opening Line-“You will never, in all your life, meet a person who packs a better suitcase than I do, and I’ll tell you right now, the secret is not organization-it is simplification.”
This is the wisdom of a seventeen-year-old girl, who has been in the foster care system her entire life. Muriel learned very early on that having too many possessions and allowing herself to get attached to people only leads to heartbreak. She has perfected the art of being ready
Susan's Reviews
Sep 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I love this author's attitude, her philosophy of life, her sense of humour, and most importantly, her writing style. This gifted writer had me hooked from page one: it was very difficult to put this book down. Her lyrical writing draws you in and makes makes you part of the action. I loved being out on the island with Muiriel, hiking with her and her middle school troop of day-trippers, baring her soul to her new bestie, Kira, and falling in love with the all-around, most decent and lovable guy ...more
ash ♡
reread Nov. 2020: this was just as good the first time and definitely helped with my reading slump 💞 (also pls ignore my review below, march me was a completely different person lmao)


I LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH! it was a big bundle of Feelings, Powerful Relationships, and! Character!Growth! which i absolutely adored. pls just do me a favor and read it. 🥺

-the main character, Muir, had a really awesome personality and her character growth was SO well written!!
-the backstory was included in flashba
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.
Sophie "Beware Of The Reader"
I have to thank Sam @weliveandbreathebooks for that read. I swear I won’t visit her site anymore as she makes me but so many books! This one has such a gorgeous cover that I even bought the physical copy!


Once again, Sam was spot on!


This story is very emotional but in a smart way. The author never overdid anything no, the emotions come from Muir’s story self, all that she’s been going through as a kid.

Muir or Muiriel is a foster kid from her birth. She’s n
Devin 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 fiction in
Samantha (WLABB)
Apr 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One more year. Muir just had to keep her head down for one more year, and then, freedom. What Muir wasn't planning on was being placed with Francine, or meeting Kira, or finding Sean. Attachments were never part of the plan, and now she must decide what her next steps will be.

Seriously! My heart just kept exploding, over and over, as I read this beautiful book. And, then when I read Longo's note at the end of the book, I was a hot mess of happy tears. I believe you should just read this book so
Dee Dee G
Sep 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
All the feels. I really enjoyed reading this.
Feb 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was a very interesting book about a girl who has been in foster care her entire life. Abandoned at birth at the John Muir Hospital, she has to struggle her whole life to fit in and to be accepted. Muiriel, known as Muir, goes to her last foster home since she is almost 18 and at that point she will age out of the program. Her last home is on an island and she makes friends, gets a job, has a pet, and has a very loving foster mother.
Jul 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
this book made me go 🥺🥺🥺 in the best way possible
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 wi
Loved it! It had the potential to be unrealistic because finding a safe place to live just a year before aging out of the foster care system seems difficult but it was beautifully written and drew you in. One of the better YA books I've read so far in 2020. ...more
Jan 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: tla_tl_2022
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: arc, possess, favorite
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
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 sa
Mar 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"No kid is in foster care because of something they did. That's not how it works. And adults are solely responsible for the sorry state foster care is in. Until everyone understands and admits this, nothing will ever change."

The stigma of being a kid in foster care. Misconceptions that adoption, that having adults who genuinely care for you, is a "privilege" instead of an entitlement for children. Unjust criminalization of children in foster care. Inherent racism and small-minded people. This bo
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
Apr 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ya
I’m crying right now, review later.

Ok, now that I'm calm enough to circle back, here we go.

"What I Carry" tells the story of Muiriel, so named for the John Muir Medical Center the nurses found her abandoned outside of as a baby. Now 17 and rapidly approaching her departure from the foster care system, Muir is getting a little panicked. For as long as she can remember, she's been preparing to strike out on her own. Every move has been carefully orchestrated to NOT rock the boat. Pack light, don'
Brooke Nadzam
Sep 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Muiriel never knew her birth mother. She was left, addicted to meth, on the steps of John Muir Medical Center as a newborn infant. The nurses named her after John Muir, and his wandering life has become an inspiration to her.

In her (almost) 18 years of life, Muir has been in 20 different placements. When she gets too close to a family, she called her beloved social worker, Joellen, and gets taken to a new home.

This novel shows a girl who is so desperately worried about relying on anyone, loving
May 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ya
I don't actually know how many kids who have spent their whole lives in foster care get their "happy ending" when they are about to age out--but I don't care. This book made me really happy, and it made me ugly cry, and I loved it, and loved Muir. I really liked the storytelling device of the little things she picks up and carries with her on the way. Sweet story! ...more
Jenny Jo Weir
Great story about the foster care system and how some of the children in the program navigate through it. I loved the insight and openness in this book. It's honestly one worth picking up. ...more
Laura Gardner
Jan 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Fabulous book about a girl about to age out of foster care who is afraid to allow herself to be loved.
Ren (A Bookish Balance)
3/5 stars

What I Carry follows a 17-year-old high school senior named Muiriel who is soon aging out of foster care. She makes an active effort not to form attachments to her foster families and often moves houses, but during her last year she tries committing to one home.

I have a lot of mixed feelings about What I Carry. On the one hand foster care and/or adoption stories are stories that consistently have a strong emotional impact on me and I find the insight gained from them invaluable, and Wha
Alyssa Gil
Apr 04, 2020 rated it it was ok
Another book I had high hopes for, another disappointment.

I want to be clear before I begin this review- I can see how this book could be amazing for some people. I can see how it could be life-changing, even. It just wasn't for me.

My biggest issue with this book is that nothing much happens. Obviously I wasn't expecting a thrill ride, but there's really not much of a plot going on here at all. Most stories have a shape, hills and valleys, highs and lows and a climax. This story felt like a stra
Melissa Colby
May 14, 2020 rated it did not like it
The title should be “ A Journey in Misrepresentation and Random Bouts of White Guilt.” The idea of this book is great. Girl in foster care, about to age-out, struggling with a lifetime of different homes. I’m reality, it is an incompetent writer’s disjointed rantings about white guilt and feminism. You’re never quite sure where the main character acquired these feeling. Basically her interests and ideas are disjointed from her past. Just because she is given a book by John Muir, she is obsessed ...more
Kiki Z
Feb 21, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Technically very good and with strong emotional impact, but the author keeps hidden the real reason Muir doesn't want anyone to adopt her until the last quarter, and frankly that was a bad idea. At times, her refusal to plant roots was extremely frustrating and ruined some of the emotional impact, and having this information would have been better. Usually this matters mostly in thrillers, but the longer the author keeps something from the audience, the bigger it needs to be, and this didn't fee ...more
Feb 12, 2020 rated it it was ok
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 charac
Mar 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Good teen read that paints a clear picture of the Foster Care System in the US. Muir, at 17, is about to age-out of the system until she lands at the right spot for her. I wish YA books didn't have to feel obligated to contain coarse language (Yes, I know this is how lots of us talk) and inevitable sexual encounters..... I would like to see some balance here. I enjoyed the plot, characters, setting and pace, so 4 stars. ...more
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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) pu ...more

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“Not being perfect is for people who have families; you can screw up and they still keep you.” 4 likes
“Adopted is not an adjective,” he said. “Joellen says that. It’s an event that happens, not who you are. As an adjective it implies inherent bullshit about a person that isn’t true. A person is not ‘adopted.’ They were adopted. Words matter.” 4 likes
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