Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on May 17th 2016
Genres: middle grade, coming of age, contemporary
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THINGS FINLEY HART DOESN’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT
• Her parents, who are having problems. (But they pretend like they’re not.)
• Being sent to her grandparents’ house for the summer.
• Never having met said grandparents.
• Her blue days—when life feels overwhelming, and it’s hard to keep her head up. (This happens a lot.)
Finley’s only retreat is the Everwood, a forest kingdom that exists in the pages of her notebook. Until she discovers the endless woods behind her grandparents’ house and realizes the Everwood is real--and holds more mysteries than she'd ever imagined, including a family of pirates that she isn’t allowed to talk to, trees covered in ash, and a strange old wizard living in a house made of bones.
With the help of her cousins, Finley sets out on a mission to save the dying Everwood and uncover its secrets. But as the mysteries pile up and the frightening sadness inside her grows, Finley realizes that if she wants to save the Everwood, she’ll first have to save herself.
Reality and fantasy collide in this powerful, heartfelt novel about family, depression, and the power of imagination.
REASONS WHY I WANTED THIS BOOK
I love Claire’s writing. The Year of Shadows is one of my favorite books, and after I met her, and found out that she is a fellow North Texan, I just fell in love with her!
That cover is totally awesome! That little crown sold me.
The author hinted that if I enjoyed Inside Out (which I did), then her new book would be a hit with me.
REASONS WHY I LOVED THIS BOOK
Finley is a great character to follow! She’s struggling with some internal issues that she can’t seem to describe properly or cope with at all times, while some unexpected external dilemmas are thrown onto her plate as well. The cause and effect from these problems are reflected from the start of the book to the end, and for those of us who have faced monsters from our childhood, it is easy to relate to her uneasiness and discomfort of the changes in her life.
The book is told from Finley’s “real world” perspective and her imagination through stories of her Everwood – a “safe place” she has built in her mind and a basis of the tales she writes in a note book she keeps on her at all times. As a girl who loves to write, I was thrilled to see a girl who took her world building seriously.
The book also tackled social class and neglectful parenting, and brings up some important issues about continuing family feuds into a younger generation, and how hate is bred and taught.
The Everwood stories were very entertaining, and I loved the symbolism of the tales and how Finley starts the healing and the sharing when she allows her real world and her written world to combine together.
The mystery surrounding the burned down house and family secrets added a layer to the story that was thrilling and also sad. Be prepared for a lot of sadness in this one.
HOW THIS BOOK CONNECTED TO ME PERSONALLY
The whole meta concept of writing a story within a story, which connected to Finley’s feelings and thoughts, was brilliant and very creative. Exploring how children and young adults, or people in general, use creativity as an outlet build a personal and emotional bridge with the audience, helps the readers not only get into the MC’s head, but also her heart.
Finley’s emotional and internal struggle was like examining my own wounds – I can recall struggling with anxiety since third grade, and three years later, the depression started to settle in right next to its sibling. Facing constant rejection due to horrible social skills and manners certainly did nothing to help my situation. As an adult who already traveled through her own forest, and spent many more years understanding what she faced, I often wanted to reach in and just grab everyone around Finley, and scream at them to really look at her, to listen to her. Yes, this book caused me to cry, to feel angry, and to feel triumphant.
This story also talks about the big D, and how much it can change the world of someone very young.
The romance part was touching and sweet, but it wasn’t the main focus. In fact, I was rooting for it to happen, and I really loved how a cute little crush developed into a very sweet and touching relationship.
What was more impressive than the above comment was the friendships that start blooming in the novel. Finley doesn’t only connect with one or two people, as I usually see in YA or MG novels, but she develops a relationship with the people around her, and each relationship is unique and different from one another. Finley finds acceptance and self esteem in becoming close to a “cool” teenager, and becomes fast friends with a girl her own age. She bonds with her grandpa, and she often finds comfort with her aunts. I love a story that can look outside the typical formulaic “romance” and also understand the importance of many other relationships.
DO I RECOMMEND THIS BOOK?
YES! If you are looking for a raw, emotional, and very powerful book that doesn’t hold back, despite the grade level, then this one is for you! Are you wanting a book that has a touch of Inside Out and Narnia? Then go get this one, and find your own happiness!