Cori’s Pick: Far From the Tree by Robin Benway
In November, Far From the Tree by Robin Benway was announced as the winner of the 2017 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. (to see the winning titles of the other three categories, visit www.nationalbook.org). After taking a look to see what it was all about, I was intrigued. The title alludes to the subject matter, the book weaves the story of three very different teenagers that are connected by blood, but have very different meanings of ‘family’ and have led very different lives…but they all have secrets.
Author Robin Benway introduces us to three main characters that are biologically related, but do not know this at the start of the novel:
Grace: who is adopted at birth and becomes an only child. At sixteen, Grace puts her own baby up for adoption, which triggers a yearning to find her biological mother.
Maya: who is Grace’s younger sister, is also adopted at birth and finds herself feeling disconnected as the brunette in a household of redheads and for her unexplained anger for those that love her most.
Joaquin: Grace and Maya’s older brother, who did not get adopted at birth, but spent his life in the foster care system. As a result, Joaquin is guarded and like Maya, has difficulty expressing his anger and love.
Each chapter is told by a different sibling’s story and perspective, and as the story unfolded, I found myself getting emotionally attached to each of them. Towards the end, chapters are heart wrenching, but don’t be deterred, it is heart wrenching in more good ways than bad! Looking back, I can totally understand how this book became a finalist and winner of the National Book Award. It explores important and relevant topics, including adoption, teen pregnancy and foster care, and does so in a way that gives the reader insight to their physical, mental, and emotional effects. While it may sound like it, this is not a terribly sad read – it is tragic, but more than anything, uplifting…and highly recommended!