I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord
Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens on May 16th 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Family, Coming of Age
Source: the Publisher
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Lucy Hansson was ready for a perfect summer with her boyfriend, working at her childhood Bible camp on the lake. But when her mom’s cancer reappears, Lucy falters—in faith, in love, and in her ability to cope. When her boyfriend “pauses” their relationship and her summer job switches to a different camp—one for troubled kids—Lucy isn’t sure how much more she can handle. Attempting to accept a new normal, Lucy slowly regains footing among her vibrant, diverse coworkers, Sundays with her mom, and a crush on a fellow counselor. But when long-hidden family secrets emerge, can Lucy set aside her problems and discover what grace really means?
This book was amazing. I loved the main character and her loyalty and strength and love for her family. Her struggles throughout the book were so realistic, both in dealing with her crisis of faith and the return of her mother’s cancer. I loved her relationship with her parents and how it changed over the course of the book. And I loved all of the characters we got to meet at the camp where Lucy becomes a counselor for the summer. This book does have cancer and religious themes throughout but it is not a cancer book or a Christian book. It’s a book about how we deal with life when things don’t go the way we want. It’s about looking at situations and figuring out how we will handle them. It’s about the people we depend on and lean on in the difficult times. It’s about struggles and loss and friendships and all the little moments in life that keep us going and make everything else worth it. In the end, it’s really just a coming of age story, learning who you are outside of your parents, and that love is always worth it.
One of my absolute favorite parts of this book, besides the MC’s journey, is the people she meets along the way. Not only the few who end up being her close friends at camp but also the campers themselves and the adults running the camp. They all help Lucy deal with her struggles in different ways and show her parts of the world that have never existed for her before. And I loved watching her developing new friendships with people. Friendships are one of my favorite parts of books and Emery Lord has always done a great job with them. I love this group and am sad I had to leave them so quickly.
It’s still true that I wouldn’t necessarily call this a “cancer” book, but it’s obviously there in the book and a big part of the MC’s story. Her mom’s cancer isn’t just affecting her summer but it’s also a part of their past and has done a lot to shape who she is in the beginning of the book. And then, of course, when the cancer comes back, it kicks off a lot of the MC’s struggles. A lot of the emotional moments in the book stem from the diagnosis so while it isn’t a cancer book in the same way that The Fault In Our Stars is a cancer book, it’s still a constant present throughout the book. And with Emery Lord’s writing, you know it’s going to be emotional. I don’t doubt that this will be a tough book for a lot of people to read and while I think it’s worth reading, I would definitely not feel bad about passing on this one if reading a book about a parent with cancer just feels too much for you.
Also, as far as the religion aspect goes, I thought it was dealt with really well. I’m not personally religious and books that focus on religion can sometimes scare me a little. Mostly, I just hate it when the characters get preachy. But that does not happen in this book. This book deals with characters’ inner struggles with religion and God in tough times and how to keep your faith when bad things are happening and how to know if and which religion is right for you. And just like so many parts of our lives that are determined by our parents when we’re young, it has to do with growing up and apart from your parents and figuring who you are and what you believe separately from them. So I wouldn’t actually consider this one a religious book, just a book that shows a character struggling with her faith. And I feel like that topic is shied away from so often by authors but Lord did an amazing job with it. I think it’s good for teens to see characters dealing with this issue just like all of the other issues because it’s something so many teens go through.
Overall, this is another amazing book from Emery Lord. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves YA contemporary books, especially coming of age stories or books with strong parent/children relationships or friendship books. This one doesn’t have a lot of unnecessary teen drama in it or silly fights. But it does deal with some tough issues like cancer and religion and kids that have lived through some horrible situations. But there’s still such a feeling of hope and survival and love at the end that you aren’t left completely miserable. I really hope you’ll give it a chance!