I don’t usually cry watching sappy shows or reading sweet books. It’s just not something I do. I think the last time I cried while reading was maybe sophomore year in high school and Sirius had just died? Yeah, it’s been awhile. Enter “Far From the Tree”. This book had me, well, not BAWLING because I’m still mostly heartless apparently, but I was tearing up in several places. This book… oh my goodness, so good! So many feels! 90% of it is not traditionally “happy” but that’s what I loved about it; it’s heavy and beautiful. “Far From the Tree” follows the story of three siblings who are separated when their bio-mom puts them up for adoption/loses them to foster care as babies. These kids’ lives are real and raw and tragic, but also inspiring and you just ache for them and want the best for them. They each are going through so much and when they learn that they have siblings, instead of it destroying them further, it turns into this beautiful relationship. The kind of relationship and support system each child needs at that precise moment in their lives.
While this book is classified as a YA contemporary, the topics are pretty heavy and deal with things like teenage pregnancy, alcoholism, and depression. I think it’s an important read, but probably better suited to a more mature reader as this isn’t a fluffy YA at all (which, again, is totally my jam but not for everyone). There is some swearing but it was also realistic to older teenagers. Seriously, spend some time on a high school campus and I’m sure you’ll lose count of the various F bombs they drop, and this book is nowhere near that level. Also, in case you are worried about the type of adoption story this is: I can assure you it isn’t one of those that paints adoptive parents as lesser in any way then bio-parents. The message I got was: giving up babies is a trauma, even if it’s done for all the right reasons. It’s hard and heart breaking, but the parents who adopt these kids are wonderful and give their children the world and more in love and support. I think the author handles these topics wonderfully and with great care and respect to both those who adopt, and the bio-parents who choose to give up their children.
That being said, out of the three main characters, I felt the most for Grace. All her chapters kicked me right in the gut. She felt the most tangible and tortured to me, followed closely by Joaquin. Those two had me tearing up multiple times. Which is odd only because Maya’s situation is the closest to my own in terms of a child being adopted into a home when the couple has a biological baby. But I did love Maya’s sarcastic wit and she was often a good foil to the more serious chapters with Joaquin—who struggles with wanting to feel like things are going right for him, but he’s been hurt so much that he can’t trust anyone to get close to him—and Grace—who wrestles with giving up her child and struggling to figure out her new normal while battling her grief and guilt over not being there for her baby in a similar fashion to her bio-mom. Honestly, if it weren’t for the humor introduced by Maya (who is a lesbian with a great girlfriend!) and Grace’s friend Rafe, this book would be a little hard to get through because the topics and feelings Benway evokes are just that powerful. But even if that levity hadn’t been there, I’d still love this book. The stories and characters, and the situations they deal with, are that important.
Honestly there was only one thing I found frustrating about the book, and that was how the characters wouldn’t just talk to each other. Which is a very teenager thing to do so it adds to the realism, but at the same time when you as the reader know they could help each other out so much by just saying the thing they are hiding… yeah, got a little frustrating. Still, I loved these kids. I hurt alongside them, I loved the messages they had for their parents, friends, and each other. They address their issues in a healthy way (for the most part), encouraging therapy and support groups to get the help they each needed. I loved their struggles and wanted them to have a happy ending because they deserved it so, so much. I LOVED this book. Period. I give it all the stars! All of them! Or, you know, just 5 because that’s all Amazon and Goodreads allows… Anyway, READ THIS BOOK!
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