A contemporary novel about three adopted siblings who find each other at just the right moment.
Being the middle child has its ups and downs.
But for Grace, an only child who was adopted at birth, discovering that she is a middle child is a different ride altogether. After putting her own baby up for adoption, she goes looking for her biological family, including—
Maya, her loudmouthed younger bio sister, who has a lot to say about their newfound family ties. Having grown up the snarky brunette in a house full of chipper redheads, she’s quick to search for traces of herself among these not-quite-strangers. And when her adopted family’s long-buried problems begin to explode to the surface, Maya can’t help but wonder where exactly it is that she belongs.
And Joaquin, their stoic older bio brother, who has no interest in bonding over their shared biological mother. After seventeen years in the foster care system, he’s learned that there are no heroes, and secrets and fears are best kept close to the vest, where they can’t hurt anyone but him.
Far From the Tree can be considered a backlist novel (it was released in 2017), so it is one that has been on my radar the longest. I don’t even think I heard anyone in particular talking about this book, but I walked into a local bookstore once and saw that they had this book in their English section. The premise caught my attention and I sat there to read a couple chapters.
I loved what I read a lot. It got me absolutely wrapped up in the story and I barely saw time passing while I stood there. I obviously didn’t have the chance to finish the whole book in one sitting and I also didn’t have the money to take it home, so I left and prayed I’d have the chance to pick it up soon. It took a few months, but it happened, and I’m so glad it did. It broke my heart and made me feel everything, just as I’d predicted it would.
- JOAQUIN. I feel like I have to mention him first, because Joaquin is the light of this book. Actually, it may be the complete opposite, because he’s in fact a very angsty and broken character. Joaquin is the only one out of the three siblings that has never been adpoted and his experiences in foster care have definitely left scars. His perspective was my favorite one to read about, and it broke my heart everytime. I teared-up multiple times reading his thoughts and his backstory. He was a very loyal and carrying person, but felt himself that he didn’t deserve happiness. I just really wanted to hug him forever.
- The discussion about being a non-white kid in a white family. Prior to picking up this book, I actually listened to Robin Benway on the First Draft podcast and I really appreciated how she mentioned approaching this discussion. As someone who cares a lot about adoption and follows a lot of interracial families on Youtube and such, it was super interesting reading from the perspective of the kid, who sees himself a in white family and is trying to come to terms with that. Joaquin is also the only one out of the three who is not white, which was a very interesting take.
- Demystifying adoption. There are a lot of stereotypes when it comes to adoption and foster care. I am not even aware of all of them, because my country has no such a system as foster care, so I think American readers can take even more from this experience. The author is able to present a very realistic side of things; even though she tries to encompass as many different perspectives as she can, and tries also to break stereotypes around what “giving up” a child means, she makes sure to remind the reader constantly that this entire cycle is based on one thing: love. People adopt because they love. They also give up their kids to adoption because they love them. This book definitely does not lack on love.
- The talk on identity. This book is centered around these characters figuring out who they are. For Grace, that means coming to terms with the person she is now, after her baby. She spent 16 years being one person, just to become another after she got pregnant, and is not dealing with the aftermath. Grace 3.0 is broken, but determined to pick up the pieces. Maya’s identity, surprisingly, didn’t rely a lot on her sexuality, because, in fact, she was super unapologetic about it, which I loved. As for Joaquin, his is definitely the most complicated one. Joaquin craves for an identity, a backstory, a past that will allow him to have a future. He doesn’t have childhood pictures or stories. At some point, a teacher asks him to buy tapas from his family, beleving that they’re Mexican, and he doesn’t know how to react to that. He doesn’t even know how to speak Spanish. This book introduced us to so many conflicts on identity and I loved it a whole lot.
- Family dynamics absolutely everywhere. I love family dynamics. More than I love romance, most of the time. Like, sure, reading about two characters falling in love is always fun, but the love that comes from a sibling relationship, mother & daughter, father & son… It’s so much more intense. I had a field day with this book, truly. It had the most beautiful family dynamics and quotes I’ve ever read about. We’re constantly complaining about terrible or absent parents in YA, and this book delivers amazing and yet complicated family relationships all around.
- Maya. As much as I loved this book, Maya’s character was hard to deal with. She was clearly written to be an unlikeable one. She talks too much, is quite snarky and doesn’t care about being nice to people whom she’s just met. Going through her narration was sort of painful, especially because I wanted to get to Grace’s and Joaquin’s already.
- The sisters relationship felt unrealistic. Maya and her sister, Lauren, have quite a complicated relationship. Lauren is a biological daughter and only one year younger than Maya. They’re written to be almost enemies, but also best friends, which I feel like should be realistic, since that’s exactly how I feel about my sister as well. But there was just something about the way they held grudges over the smallest things and kept apologizing that just didn’t work for me at all? If you have a sibling, you know you hardly ever apologize. One minute you’re screaming at each other, the next you’re laughing. That’s the beauty about having a sibling, and I feel like, ultimately, their relationship lacked this natural banter.
Overall, I’m just so glad that I read this book. There are so many important topics being talked about in here, and you can see the author made sure to treat it with a lot of respect. It truly puts you in these characters’ shoes, almost transporting you to the inside of their lives, as you follow their narratives.
I will point out, though, that the physical book may be a better fit than the audio book. I listened to it and I didn’t vibe with the narrator that much. Also, it is only one narrator for all three perspectives, which I find can be kinda tedious. If you have the chance to pick up the physical one, I’d definitely recommend doing so!
If you survived this over 1k words review, thank you so much! If you have read Far From The Tree, please share your thoughts in the comments below!