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Far from the Tree
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May 2018: Family Drama > Far From the Tree - Robin Benway, 5 stars

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message 1: by Hebah (last edited May 12, 2018 07:30AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hebah (quietdissident) | 675 comments This was a great opportunity for me to knock another book off of Mt TBR. I started reading this a while back, but it wasn't the right book at the time. This time, it was the perfect read.

A friend asked me about Far From the Tree, and I described it as a "feelsy, contemporary YA story." I stand by that description.

This story of Grace, Maya, and Joaquin, siblings who find each other in their teens after a lifetime of separation via adoption and, in Joaquin's case, foster care, grabbed me from the very beginning. Grace initiates the reunion after giving up her own baby for adoption; Maya was adopted into a loving family, but one where her parents fight constantly and pictures on the wall serve as a constant reminder that she's a genetic anomaly in a family of redheads; Joaquin has bounced from foster home to foster home and has finally landed in a loving home with a couple who adores him--and he's utterly freaked out by the change in circumstance. They all have secrets and hurts that gradually come to light through situations that bring them together and sometimes highlight the disparity in their experiences. For those differences, though, they discover common bonds and learn that they have more people in their corners than they realized. Family and what that means is at the center of everything in this story.

This story hit a lot of notes of emotional resonance--times that I almost physically ached in sympathy with their private hurts, times that made me weepy with joy, and times where the love and care between character was just so beautifully done that I couldn't help misting. The adults in their lives are loving, if not always perfect, and the misunderstandings that arise feel authentic, sometimes coming from the complication of adoption and the questions unique to their situation and other times coming purely from the messiness that is family. It ends on a satisfyingly hopeful note--it's not so much that everything is perfect and happy and wonderful but that everyone has a little bit stronger of a foundation to work from, with more people connected to and supporting them; important to that is that many characters find help with therapy--both individually and as family units--and, in one case, a support group.

A couple gems that I really appreciated in the story were the places where class, privilege, and race came up, rather organically. Grace and Maya, both white girls, were adopted into homes that are at least solidly middle class; Joaquin, who is half Mexican and a boy rapidly aging out of the foster system, has had very different experiences. When Grace begins hanging out with one of the few people from school who doesn't care that she was a teen mother, she is oblivious to why her parents are so concerned--until he gently points out that his family is Mexican after all. It's not a big deal to them, but others bring unconscious bias to the table. Even Grace's social standing addresses double standards--she's labeled a slut and baby mama, while the father of her baby is crowned homecoming king the night the baby is born.

One of the things I adore about YA fiction is its intersection of characters, issues, and emotional resonance, and Far From the Tree hit all of those notes perfectly for me.

message 2: by JoLene (new)

JoLene (trvl2mtns) | 1532 comments This cover always catches my eye at the bookstore. Sounds pretty interesting.

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