Wow! I started this book in a state of “if I have to, may as well start here.” Sometimes, I move towards my own assignments in the same reluctant way as my students. Summer reading? Let me read ten unrelated books first. But eventually, I steel myself and begin the “required reading of my life” (that is, anything I expect students to read). Far From The Tree is one such novel, and wow, I’m glad that I started here!
Far From The Tree is about “family.” The story begins with Grace, a high school junior. When Grace discovers she’s pregnant, she decides to give her baby up for adoption. As Grace worries about whether she made the right decision, she knows one person who can help — her bio-mom. Grace has always known that she was adopted, but she has never wanted to know more until now.
As Grace learns more about her biological family, she meets Maya, her sarcastic younger bio-sister, and Joaquin, her stoic older bio-brother. Maya’s own life has turned upside down as her parents are about to go through a divorce. Meanwhile, Joaquin has learned to navigate the foster system and must decide what to do after his current placement offers to adopt him. Together, the three siblings learn what it means to be a family and to have more than one family.
What I Loved
The characters! Far From The Tree would not work without the characters driving the story. Maya, Joaquin, and Grace all have their own journeys to follow, but they eventually come together to seek out their bio-mom (no spoilers!). Without these characters leading the way, the story would NOT be what it is.
Adopted =/= bad. Even though these characters each have a VERY different experience with adoption and family, the overall message is not that adoption is “bad.” Families do not have to be just a mom, a dad, and kids. Families can be different, and that’s okay.
The multiple narratives work. When I started Far From The Tree, I thought, “Three narrators? This sounds terrible.” But as I got into the story, I realized that this style works for the novel. I found all three narratives were equally compelling, and I felt attached to all the characters. The only time I skipped ahead chapters was when Grace got into a fight at school and I wanted to know the consequences immediately.
Far From The Tree deals with some difficult subject matter — teenage pregnancy, adoption, foster care, alcoholism, and divorce. With that being said, the novel is a fantastic, quick summer read. Great for anyone looking to read about families, relationships, and what it means to be loved.