By Robin Benway
Harper Teen, 2017, 374 pages, Young Adult
When Grace, an only child who was adopted at birth, ends up having to give up her own daughter to adoption, she begins to wonder about her biological family. Soon she meets her biological siblings, Maya and Joaquin, and Grace discovers that she’s not alone. Together the three help each other through tough trials, and try to find out what happened to their birth mother.
The themes used in Far From the Tree could easily make this book veer into After School Special territory. It discusses tough issues like teen pregnancy, adoption, life in the foster care system, alcoholism, bullying, and divorce. The thing that keeps this book from being a complete downer is that it also covers themes such as the power of love and the strength of family. The story is told from the point of view of three different characters, and while I liked some of them more than others, each character felt fully fleshed-out and well formed. I found myself pretty engrossed in the story, and read with almost perpetually misty eyes. To me, Robin Benway has hit on the same formula that made books like Eleanor and Park and The Fault in Our Stars so powerful. It’s no wonder that this book was just awarded the prestigious National Book Award!