book review: far from the tree, by robin benway

IMG_0179A 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.


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.


  1. 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.
  2. 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.

IMG_0183Overall, 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!

17 comentários sobre “book review: far from the tree, by robin benway

  1. Omg great review! I just got this book a few weeks back and after reading your review I am so hyped to get to it. Like, uhhh, I haven’t even read this book and I’m ALREADY in love with Joaquin??
    And family dynamics are my actual crack omg. I have 3 brothers so I’m constantly looking for books with good sibling relationships, and this one is literally ABOUT them, so sign me the hell up.
    Though I do 100% agree: what sibling would EVER willingly lose an argument by apologizing?? No, you stomp off, call each other names for the next few hours whenever you walk past them, and then make fun of your other sibling together when they inevitably do something stupid, and all is forgiven 😂 (or maybe that’s just me and my brothers, lmao). Well, that, or we’d argue and then forgive each other when we got bored, because you can’t pretend your toy cars are spies without your sibling pretending their toy cars are villains 😆
    But I’m so glad you enjoyed this! Hopefully I will too when I finally get around to it 😊

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    • Joaquin is THE BEST! I can’t wait for you to read it and fall in love with him as well.
      It’s sooooo nice you have three brothers? Oh my God, I’d love that! I only have one older sister, and though we have a reasonably nice relationship, I’d love to have a little brother too.
      And THAT IS 100% TRUE. I’d never lose an argument by apologizing. Being mad for a minute and then laughing together the other is probably the best thing about having a sibling, in my opinion, because it’s the type of dynamic you can only have with someone you’re extremely close with. For friends and even relatives, I always find myself having to apologize for every little thing and walking on egg shells, whereas for siblings, you just fight and then move on, hahah.
      Thank you so much for the lovely comment, Laura! 💞

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      • Yess omg I’m so excited to get to it so I can obsess over him as well!
        Omg I love my brothers, but they can be A LOT. But it means there’s never a boring moment at home 😆 I’m low key jealous that you have a sister. I always wanted one. Like, when my mum was pregnant with my youngest brother, I literally used to BEG her to have a girl. I even went as far as to ask for a sister for Christmas 😂
        And yes yes yes, it’s like you just have this mutual understanding that the argument is now over and you love each other again. It’s just so much easier. That’s why I love having siblings! There are some people I know that I constantly have to apologize to and it just gets so annoying, whereas my brothers will literally stop caring about an argument we had after a couple hours and it’s just really nice to have people who already know that you’re sorry without having to give them some long speech about it.

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      • Hahahah, I’d loooove to have had a younger sibling. By the time I was old enough to even ask for one, my parents had already had surgeries to not have any more kids. I’m still a bit salty about it, not gonna lie, lol.
        I completely agree! It showed me that I need to appreciate my sister more, because she’s definitely one of the few people in this world I can have such a relationship with!

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  2. This is a really fantastic review! I’ve had this book on my TBR for a while, but this has convinced me to definitely read it. I’m looking forward to getting to know all of the characters and learning more about adoption as well! Haha, I know exactly what you mean about siblings and the lack of apologies. My sister and I will be at odds all day and then one funny thing happens, we make eye contact and laugh, and suddenly everything has been forgotten.😂

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  3. I am really glad you enjoyed this book. I have only heard a few things about this book so it was great to learn some more.
    It was great to see it talked about adopted families because you don’t get to see that too much in books and that it focused on love in the family because that sounds great!!
    This book sounds like it covers many topics which is wonderful!! And I agree family dynamics are lovely to read about as have a very powerful love and yes it is great to see nice families in YA books!!
    I agree about siblings going from shouting to laughing– so true. It is more of a silent apology that no one ever talks about or you just more on. I think sibling relationships are hard to write about actually.
    I am glad you found a new favourite and it was great to hear your thoughts 💛

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      I definitely don’t see enough books talking about adoptive families and I find this is a super interesting topic. I do hope that we get to see more of this topic in the future!
      I agree: sibling relationships are definitely hard to write, so I understand why this one wasn’t perfect.
      Thank you so much for the lovely comment, Sophie! 💞

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      • Aww… THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! 💛 I thought I would try something new on my blog!!
        Yes hopefully that would be great!! Yes but when they’re written well they are absolutely one of my favourite relationships to read!!
        You’re welcome 💕

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  4. I’ve heard of this book maybe once or twice but now I know I definitely need to pick it up!!
    Plus, complex characters are my downfall so I already know I’m going to fall in love with Joaquin! 😩 ahaha.

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  5. I read this book earlier this year and I LOVED it. This sounds really cliche, but I appreciated the discussion around what makes a family a unit — is just love enough, or does appearance matter as well? Joaquin’s story arc as someone who struggled with both opening up emotionally to his foster parents & connecting with his foster parents due to his dissimilar looks was so well-crafted.

    Your review reminded me how much I adore this novel! Great review! 😊

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    • I totally agree! It was a very important discussion, because even though I do not look like my parents and sister at all, it was never to the extent where I felt completely left out, so I’d never thought about it before. I’m glad that this book exposed me to such a reality.
      Thank you so much for the lovely comment, Zoie! 😌


    • It really was! I have an older sister and for a long time I wished I was an only child, but looking back, I am glad I had someone to share so many memories with. I think it’s a really heartfelt story and even if you don’t have siblings, it will make you very thankful about family in general.
      Thank you so much for stopping by, Uma! 😊


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