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Far From the Tree by Robin Benway - Review

Friday, March 30, 2018

Where did I get it? Amazon, I bought it on Kindle a few weeks ago when it was only 99p. 

What's it about? It starts with Grace, who is sixteen and who has just had a baby. She called the baby Peach in her own head, and has given her up for adoption. She's grieving very hard for Peach, even though she thinks she made the right decision, and as an adopted child herself it makes her think about her own birth family. 

Her parents have information about Grace's younger sister, Maya. Maya is fifteen, and a lesbian. She has a girlfriend, Claire, and a younger sister, Lauren. Maya's family looks good from the outside, but inside it's falling apart. Her parents row all the time and her mum is drinking a lot. Maya feels like she doesn't fit into her family and is desperate to fit in somewhere. 

The girls discover they have an older brother, Joaquin. He is mixed race and has lived his whole life in the foster system. He is currently living with Mark and Linda, who want to adopt him, but Joaquin keeps pushing them away. 

Each of the siblings is struggling to cope in one way or another. Grace goes back to school but is bullied for having a baby, but she meets a new boy who doesn't know her past. Joaquin has a girlfriend but has just broken up with her. He has weekly therapy and is trying to sort things out even though he's about to age out of the foster system. Maya is pushing people away and also trying her best. And then, to top it all off, Grace wants to try to trace their birth mother too. 

I feel like there were loads of positives in this book. I liked the frank look at adoption and the pros and cons of it. I liked that therapy was shown in a positive light. I liked that all of Maya's family accepted that she was gay without stressing about it. I liked how real the new siblings were with each other, in both good ways and bad. I liked the families each of the siblings had, in their imperfect ways. I liked how Grace was grieving for Peach even while believing she did the right thing - I think this is something which a lot of adults struggle with so to see a teen struggling with it felt like it was really important and well done. 

The book has chapters from the point of view of each of Grace, Joaquin, and Maya. I liked that a lot because it gave us the opportunity to see into each of their heads. 

Some things were a little bit too perfect, like Grace's new friend Rafe, but I even liked those bits in the context of the book as a whole. It's really good, I would definitely read other books by the same author. 

What age range is it for? Let's say 15+ 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yes, Maya is. 

Are any main characters people of colour? Yes, it's a big part of Joaquin's story. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? I think there is some mental health stuff going on, sure, but it's not really spelt out. Maya's mum is an alcoholic and this could potentially be triggering. 

Is there any sex stuff? No, although it is mentioned because obviously Grace had sex with Peach's dad. It's not explicit. 

Are drugs mentioned or used? There's one use of marijuana, I liked how this was done a lot. 

Is there any talk of death? A little, but not much and nothing explicit. 

Are there swear words? Very few, they're very judiciously used 

What criticisms do I have? As I said, some things are a little bit too perfect, but in all they're easy to look past. 

Would I recommend the book? Yes 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? It was near the front of the carousel on my Kindle, nothing more than that! 

What other books is it like? It has a bit of the same feel as Paper Butterflies by Lisa Heathfield, but is far less distressing than that 

How many stars? Four out of five. 

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