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The Half Orphan's Handbook

4.47  ·  Rating details ·  156 ratings  ·  55 reviews
For fans of John Green and Emily X.R. Pan, The Half-Orphan's Handbook by Joan F. Smith is a coming-of-age story and an empathetic, authentic exploration of grief with a sharp sense of humor and a big heart.

It’s been three months since Lila lost her father to suicide. Since then, she’s learned to protect herself from pain by following two unbreakable rules:

1. The only peopl
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published April 6th 2021 by Imprint
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Average rating 4.47  · 
Rating details
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Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell
The style was a little incompatible with mine but it will appeal to the right kind of reader.

GR review to come, or read it early HERE.
Melanie (mells_view)
The Half-Orphan's Handbook is a deeply emotional YA contemporary that discusses grief, guilt, and loss with an edge of humor to lighten it up. Add in a camp setting and friendship, and you've got a incredibly well written story that covers some heavy topics. That said, you definitely need to be in the mood to read about those heavier topics, and honestly be prepared to cry a bit. Lila's journey through her grief is a great story. Have your tissues ready, but don't fret you will smile as well.

cherelle (a bolt out of the book)
consider my breath stolen || rating: 4 stars✨

*full review/blog tour to come: 26 April*

The Half-Orphan’s Handbook is one of those books that nails the perfect balance between light-heartedness and cheer, and the sombre themes of grief, guilt and loss. The exploration into loss and acceptance was both sensitive and thought-provoking, the writing metaphorical, sprinkled with deep nuances I appreciated. The characters and their relationships were all so beautiful and heartfelt, and like friendships
Rebecca Phillips
Jul 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2021
My Author Mentor Match mentee. <3

This book is beautiful. You're not even ready.
Laura Namey
Jul 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was lucky to read an early copy of this book and it is a masterpiece. Beautiful characters face the true and tough realities of the world and life. Joan F. Smith gives teens a book that merges humor with grief and the tools to find hope while reconciling the unanswerable. Stunning.
Jul 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya
I write this as a licensed psychologist who has been in practice for over a decade: this is an important book for teens. Youth survivors of suicide are a unique group, and a lonely group. They often feel unseen, alienated from their peers and the world. This book is one thing that may help such youth feel more connected and find hope. It's also a useful book for friends and family of teens who have suffered a loss, for building empathy and perspective. To boot, it's artfully plotted, beautifully ...more
Dec 31, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arcs
So this started off slow, hooked me, and then left me disappointed after the 30% mark. The concept was perfect but the execution lagged. I realized at 52% that nothing was happening despite a regular camp story: lots of underage drinking and gossiping. Plus Lila and Noah exchanged a few sentences before making out and deciding they loved each other, and that ruined the story for me. I also didn't appreciate Sammy and his 11/12 year old self acting like a sexist, womanizing man. Everyone laughed ...more
Jun 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This was one of the best fiction novels I’ve read in a long time. Absolutely depressing (so if you’re depressed or paranoid I would not recommend it), yet I read this book for 5 hours straight because I could not put it down. The plot, the depiction of reality— it was absolutely captivating but at the same time polarizing.
Anuradha Rajurkar
I began this yesterday, and am already engrossed! Review to come...
Feb 23, 2021 marked it as i-will-come-back-for-you  ·  review of another edition
I wonder how many tissues I will need for this one. I am immensely grateful to Imprint and NetGalley for my digital review copy.
Brianna Bourne
Oct 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This story was absolutely lovely! Joan Smith tackles a heavy topic with humor, hope, and sweetness. The tone is great for both lower and upper ranges of YA—it never gets too dark to handle. I loved the large cast of characters, the summer camp setting, the sex-positive romance, and the diverse rep. A fresh, touching, and uplifting read!
Apr 05, 2021 rated it liked it
Thank you to Imprint/Macmillan, Xpresso Book Tour, and Netgalley for providing me with a digital Arc in exchange for an honest review! All quotes are taken from the Arc and therefore subject to changes.


Grief was explored in many different ways. Of course, Lila's own experience - which is drawn from the author's own background - is front and center. She deals with the mix of emotions after losing her dad to suicide and feeling like her life is falling apart around her. There is
May 17, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2021
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dai Guerra
Apr 26, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Thank you to Netgalley and Macmillan Children's Publishg Group for the advanced copy of the book in exchange for my review.

TW: suicide mention, suicide, death, addiction

Thoughts and Themes: I knew this book would be heavy as I went into reading it just because of the subject matter that it tackles. Its hard for me to talk about this book without revealing too much personal information but this book hit close to home for a lot of reasons.

I liked how the book went through a lot of the feelings tha
Alex (The Scribe Owl)
See this review and more at my blog, The Scribe Owl!

Thank you to Xpresso Book Tours for an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

3/5 stars

The Half-Orphan's Handbook is a heavy-hitting novel about grief and love.

The Half-Orphan's Handbook is both heavy and lighthearted at the same time. Joan F. Smith mixes humor and hard topics with ease to make for an entertaining read. But for some reason, this book and I just didn't connect. I'll come back to this later but, although it was well done, things ju
Lindsay Clark
Jun 10, 2021 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Andrea Arango
Mar 30, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I don't remember where I came across the ARC form for this book, only that when I saw it was a YA about a girl who'd lost her dad and learned to deal with it at a summer grief camp, I immediately hit request.

THE HALF-ORPHAN'S HANDBOOK was a hard book to read, though different enough from my own experience to make me feel like a spectator. My father's death was due to an unpreventable and unexpected heart attack. Lila's was due to addiction and suicide. Where I felt only sadness towards my father
Tara T.
May 08, 2021 rated it it was amazing
*Spoilers Ahead*

“Grief is showering in the old shower stall in the basement bathroom so no one will hear you cry. It is wearing your dad’s winter pajamas to bed so you can use the flannel to soak up your tears. Grief is ferocious and hot.”

The Half-Orphan’s Handbook tells the story of that grief—in a truly lovely and heart-wrenching way.

This book had me welling up from the get-go, delving deep into the complicated feelings that arise from familial relationships. While I haven’t experienced a los
Apr 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Lila didn't want to go to Camp Bonaventure (Dead Parent Camp to Lila) in Maine. It's a grief camp you send kids to bond with others who have lost loved ones. At her mother's insistence, it's just one more thing out of Lila's control. Well, at least she's not going alone. Her precocious twelve-year-old brother Sammy is going with her. 

Lila's loss of her father is a journey filled with doubts, guilt, loneliness, anger, understanding, and most importantly friendship. I love the strong friendships i
Mar 25, 2021 rated it really liked it
*this e-arc was sent to me by the publisher to give an honest review in return*

This was such an amazingly written book! It’s about a girl named Lila who loses her father to suicide and is send to a summer grief camp where she sets up two unbreakable rules for herself. Once Lila gets to camp, she realizes there is more about her family that she doesn’t know about and started to find answers.

The author’s writing was just well done for this book. It was a raw and emotional book that was written in
Apr 30, 2021 rated it it was amazing
"It’s been three months since Lila lost her father to suicide. Since then, she’s learned to protect herself from pain by following two unbreakable rules:
1. The only people who can truly hurt you are the ones you love. Therefore, love no one.
2. Stay away from liars. Liars are the worst."

Like I said I went to summer camp when I was in elementary to high school only for a week at a time and I love the camp experience. This whole idea of camp for adolescents that have lost someone is such a beautifu
Beth VanCurine
I wish I could say how much I loved the characters in this book. I fell in love with all of them. Lila and Sammy and their friends are all beautifully written and devastatingly real. I wanted to hug them all and tell them everything would be okay.

Lila's father has died, leaving her and her brother Sammy half-orphans. He died by suicide, and Lila just can't wrap her mind around that. To deal with this unbearable and understandable grief, Lila's mother sends her and Sammy to a summer camp for kid
PinkAmy loves books, cats and naps
If you’ve ever read a book about a reluctant teen who’s sent to grief camp, you’ve already read THE HALF-ORPHAN’S HANDBOOK.

This predictable book has nothing but tropes you’ve seen before. Lila tells reluctantly agrees to go for one week of the eight week camp, but readers know she’ll stay for the whole time and she’ll embrace the opportunity. Of course she will.

THE HALF-ORPHAN’S HANDBOOK vacillates between heavy-handed in-your-face Big Issues and lighthearted camp shenanigans.

Grief camp can’t
Nov 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read THE HALF ORPHAN’S HANDBOOK in a single weekend, completely mesmerized by this beautiful story of grief and healing. The summer after her father’s suicide, 16-year-old Lila’s mother pressures her to attend a camp for children and teens who have lost a loved one. The eight weeks that follow are profound and life-altering. Friendships are made, loss is borne with those who can truly understand it, and love is dared. Lila’s journey is so beautifully told. While ‘grief camp’ sounds like it cou ...more
Laura Hill
Dec 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult
Thank you to Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on April 6th, 2021.

A well-written book about a young girl going through the grief of her father’s recent suicide. Lila is 16 and has been reluctantly cajoled into attending a grief camp for the summer. This is the story of her slow journey towards healing, including a healthy amount of new friends, a budding love interest, and th
Apr 20, 2021 rated it really liked it
It’s been three months since Lila lost her father to suicide. Since then, she’s learned to protect herself from pain by following two unbreakable rules:

1. The only people who can truly hurt you are the ones you love. Therefore, love no one.
2. Stay away from liars. Liars are the worst.

But when Lila’s mother sends her to a summer-long grief camp, it’s suddenly harder for Lila to follow these rules. Potential new friends and an unexpected crush threaten to drag her back into life for the first time
Many thanks to EdelweissPlus and the publisher for providing me with a DRC of this title for review. All opinions are my own.

This was a fantastic, heartbreaking book about grief and moving on. Lila's father died by suicide and she was completely blindsided. As she struggles with her grief, she starts a list of rules, the Half Orphans Handbook, that she thinks will help her to avoid this type of hurt in the future. She never could have imagined something like this happening and she thinks that if
Kathryn (Katie) Burlo
Jun 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I love it when books can explore tough topics like grief, death, and hard emotions, while also being books that can appeal to young people and also have some humor involved. Smith does this very, very well. Lila is a character that you really feel for from the beginning, and I’d definitely say you may cry when reading this book. Themes like family, friendship, mental health, and loss are all explored, and Lila stands strong through it all. She’s witty and resilient, but also struggles with withd ...more
Apr 16, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult
Poor Lila is lost after her father inexplicably commits suicide and a summer camp for kids who've experienced loss is the last place she wants to be. But what she soon learns is that, even after loss, life goes on.
Smith filed this story with great characters that not only help Lila on her path to acceptance, they also show that everyone grieves differently. They each have their story to tell and that informs the way that Lila starts opening up to the world. The romance she finds with fellow cam
May 08, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2021-blog, blog-books
3.5 Stars

Note: I was provided with an ARC by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions here are my own.

Definitely more humor in this one than I was expecting... in a good way. This book does a great job of blending summer-camp-story shenanigans with real grief and healing. I love that the characters in this book tend toward honesty. One of my particular peeves in contemporary YA is just how much drama is happens because somebody is holding back the truth. I h
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