Book Review

Far From The Tree


A good book is a good book regardless of genre, and, IMHO, Far From The Tree is an incredibly good book.  Apparently, others shared that humble opinion, since the book was recently awarded the 2017 National Book Award for YA Fiction.

I believe it deserves it for many reasons, but let me say a word first about Young Adult novels.  I do love them.  I find them fresh and interesting.  I love that they have vivid analogies, but lack the pretension of literary fiction.  I love that their plots are timely.  I love that those plots move.  I’m speaking in generalities, of course.  Some YA fiction is too young, too fast-paced, or too slangy for me, and a poorly-written book is a poorly-written book regardless of genre.

Far From The Tree has the best of the best and none of the worst.  It tells of three teenagers, all living with different families and unaware of each other until, in a twist of fate, they discover they share a biological mother. Connecting with each other is new, exciting, and at times terrifying for each of them at the most complicated time of their lives.  The thrust of the story is how their relationship with each other develops and how it helps them deal with all of those other complications their lives have brought.

The siblings, Grace, Maya, and Joaquin, are beautifully drawn, very different from each other as people, yet alike in some of the most elemental ways.  Their voices rang true, as did their emotions and their behavior.  Each was sympathetic, each grew as the story progressed.  Was the ending wrapped up a little too sweetly? Maybe. But I liked it.

Far From the Tree is about family – how you define it, blood-bound or not.  It’s about the deepest emotions that tie people together, how those emotions can bring paralysis or progress.  Robin Benway has done a remarkable job capturing the heart.


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