Book Review: The Name She Gave Me by Betty Culley
A heartbreakingly beautiful novel in verse about adoption, family, friendship, and love in all its many forms, perfect for fans of Robin Benway and Jandy Nelson, from the acclaimed author of Three Things I Know Are True.
Rynn was born with a hole in her heart—literally. Although it was fixed long ago, she still feels an emptiness there when she wonders about her birth family.
As her relationship with her adoptive mother fractures, Rynn finally decides she needs to know more about the rest of her family. Her search starts with a name, the only thing she has from her birth mother, and she quickly learns that she has a younger sister living in foster care in a nearby town. But if Rynn reconnects with her biological sister, it may drive her adoptive family apart for good.
This powerful story uncovers both beautiful and heartbreaking truths and explores how challenging, yet healing, family can be.
I went on a big verse novels kick earlier this year while working on an article about them for School Library Journal. As new books arrive at my house, I’m seeing more and more verse novels, which is great. The summary, which you can see above, for Culley’s new novel grabbed my attention. I’m not adopted nor is my teen, but my best friend has two adopted children and grew up with a family who did foster care, so I maybe have more conversations about adoption and its many issues than many. The content was of interest to me here, but it’s the writing that drew me in.
The verse format really worked for the kind of straightforward way Rynn tells her story. Her story has the many layers that so many adoption stories (real and fictional) have: unknown histories and people, feelings of loose ends and loss, sudden discoveries of family, complicated feelings, and new connections. The people she is surrounded by are so vividly drawn and unique, from the extremely factual new friend Alexander to the adorable and enthusiastic toddler Douglas to the big-hearted new sister Ella. Rynn juggles her quest for unknown family with her existing familial relationships. Her kind but meek father clearly would do anything for her… anything except choose her and her needs over that of her cruel and terse mother, a person Rynn views as a volcano. Rynn is so vulnerable, so clearly aching to fill what she’s always felt as holes in her life. This compassionate and quiet story is a beautiful and poignant look at family, belonging, and self-discovery.
Review copy (ARC) courtesy of the publisher
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 06/21/2022
Age Range: 13 – 17 Years
Filed under: Book Reviews
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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