Book Review: Forget-Me-Not Blue by Sharelle Byars Moranville
Perfect for fans of Encanto and Turning Red, this intimate and heartfelt middle grade novel follows two siblings fighting to stay together amidst the ripple effects of addiction and generational trauma.
Siblings Con and Sofie’s mom promised that nothing would ever come between them–but when she disappears without any warning, she becomes the one who’s tearing them apart.
With no one else to rely on, inseparable siblings Con and Sofie must decide who they can trust, and whether or not it’s safe to share their hearts with family members who have the power to hurt them. Sofie has always turned to Con–and to books–during times of upheaval in their unstable lives. But as their mother is arrested and their guardianship becomes uncertain, Sofie will have to find hope in the most important story of all: her own.
Moranville’s captivating and vulnerable prose explores the ways in which addiction’s ripple effects pass through generations and how familial bonds can remain unbreakable through the most difficult circumstances. Expertly grappling with difficult topics at an age-appropriate level, this novel is a sensitive, nuanced exploration of children’s enduring resilience and optimism.
A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection
Sometimes a book just grabs you and makes it impossible to do anything else. I was about 85% of the way through this book when we ran out the door with a dog to the emergency vet. After we’d been there a bit, I said to my husband, “Man—I wish I’d remembered to grab that book!” I needed to know what happened to sweet Sofie.
Sofie and Con’s lives are not easy. At all. Their mom is often struggling with drug dependence issues and has had a string of crummy boyfriends. She disappears sometimes for days or weeks at a time. And Con, Sof’s big brother? Is only 13. Yet he’s in charge. He feels responsible for her care, for their care. Just him. A kid. As a parent and as someone who did not grow up having to live through these things, part of me was horrified. But, as a person who lives in the world and has worked for years and years with kids coming from all kinds of home lives that I can hardly comprehend, I kept nodding to myself and thinking of various kids I’ve known over the years who would read this and see SO much of themselves in these kids. These kids are the definition of “resilient,” a word I kind of hate, a word that often gets used as some kind of weird compliment when really their “resilience” is not necessarily anything admirable—it’s a trait they’ve had to take on just to live. They have no choice but to be self-sufficient, to make sure they get clothes and food at various services there to help, to make sure they get where they need to be, to get through each day. They shouldn’t have to be resilient. They should be cared for. And that’s what the whole arc of their story is: finding those who will care for them. Thankfully, that ends up being all kinds of people—family they didn’t know, new friends, an imperfect system that is doing its best to make sure kids are safe and cared for. And their mom DOES care for them—she’s just not good at it. She has problems that get in the way of letting her be a good mom.
So much about this story resonated with me. Small details, like Sof wishing school weren’t out for the summer (because school has books and food and caring teachers)—I know so many kids for whom summer is not an amazing time; summer can be a very stressful time full of uncertainty and a lack of resources. Sof and Con do things like visit their mother in jail and prison, learn to understand sobriety and the work that goes into it once their great-grandpa arrives on the scene, and deal with advocates and social workers and the foster care system. This is real life for so, so many kids. These children endure, though “enduring” is not what any of us would wish for Sofie, Con, and all the real-life kids we know like them. But beyond enduring, this book allows them (and us) to feel hopeful about their future. They are getting help, they are seeing that they can trust some adults, and they are getting the care that they have been lacking their entire lives. While not an easy read, it’s an important one, full of heart and vulnerability, that will leave readers with much to think about. And, most importantly, readers who can unfortunately relate to what Sofie and Con are going through will not only feel seen but feel assured that, with help and hope, things may not always be so hard.
Review copy (ARC) courtesy of the publisher
Publisher: Holiday House
Publication date: 08/08/2023
Age Range: 8 – 12 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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