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Book Review: The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord

Book Review:  The Names They Gave Us by Emery LordThe Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord
Also by this author: When We Collided
four-half-stars
Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens on May 16th 2017
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 390
Source: Library
Amazon
Goodreads

MY REVIEW:

Emery Lord’s The Names They Gave Us is a book that I was actually a little apprehensive about reading even though I fell in love with her writing when I read When We Collided.  My hesitation this time around was because I had read that this book focuses a lot on religion and faith.  Since I don’t consider myself to be a particularly religious person, I was a little worried the subject matter might put me off.  Thankfully, my worries were unfounded.  Even though faith does play a prominent role in the story, Emery Lord handles it in a way that doesn’t come across as heavy-handed at all.  The Names They Gave Us is essentially a coming of age story and part of the main character’s coming of age journey is to actually question her own faith.

The Names They Gave Us follows Lucy Hansson, a high school student who is also the daughter of a preacher.  Because religion has just always been a part of Lucy’s life, she has always felt secure in her faith and has never questioned it.  That is, until her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time.  That diagnosis sets off a chain reaction of events that strips all of the constants out of Lucy’s life.  Her longtime boyfriend Lucas, the boy she fully expects to marry someday, suddenly decides that the two of them should take a break and make sure they really love each other.  Not only that, but Lucy’s mom also decides that instead of Lucy being a counselor at their church camp like she has for every summer for as long as she can remember, she should take a job as a counselor at Daybreak, a local camp for troubled kids.

Lucy is crushed that Lucas would choose now of all times to break up with her and is also completely baffled as to why her mom would not want her to be with them at the church camp.  She is also starting to question her own faith:  After all of their prayers and the prayers of everyone in their congregation, how could her mom’s cancer have possibly come back?  Feeling like her whole world has been turned upside down, but ultimately knowing that she doesn’t want to do anything to upset her mother, Lucy reluctantly agrees to work at Daybreak for the summer.

When she first arrives at Daybreak, Lucy feels overwhelmed and wants nothing more than to be back at the church camp with her parents, but then she eventually starts to make friends – real friends that she actually has things in common with, friends who are also going through or have been through some bad times in their lives.  They provide a support system for Lucy that she has never had before, even with friends from school she thought she was close to – and suddenly things aren’t quite as bad as they first seemed.

Could this be why Lucy’s mom insisted that she go to Daybreak?  Is this Lucy’s mom’s way of making sure her little girl will be okay no matter what happens.  Or is there more to it than that?

 

I really liked Lucy and her family right away.  They’re just good people who fully embrace their faith but who also don’t try to force their beliefs on to others.  I was immediately devastated for them when it was revealed that Lucy’s mom’s cancer had come back.  The family was just getting back on its feet after her first battle with it, and now it sends them all reeling again.

Lucy was so easy to root for her not just because she was likable, but also because her emotions and fears, and those questions that just kept running through her mind felt so real.  Emery Lord does a very nice job of getting inside the mind of someone who is having a crisis of faith and possibly facing the loss of a loved one.  It was often heart-wrenching to read, but the portrayal felt very authentic.

I also loved that Lucy keeps an open mind about going to Daybreak and that her character undergoes tremendous growth during her stay there.  The counselors and the children who come there are a diverse group and, as such, Lucy meets a lot of people there who are very different from her and from anyone else she has ever known.  She doesn’t shy away from them or judge them at all though.  She meets a lesbian and a transgender counselor, for example, and she’s very open to asking any questions she has about their experiences.  She just genuinely wants to know everything about them and does so without trying to push any of her own beliefs on to them.

The beautiful friendships Lucy makes with her fellow counselors at Daybreak are one of my absolute favorite parts of The Names They Gave Us.  Each counselor has their own issues to deal with, whether it’s severe anxiety, abuse, or something else, but they come to camp and set aside those issues and try to help other kids who may be going through similar hard times.  Because the kids they counsel are often having such a rough go of things, they are not allowed to show any signs of their own issues while around them.  The counselors therefore lean on each other for support behind closed doors and, over their many years of working together, have become a very tight-knit group of friends.  And even though Lucy is the new girl and they know nothing about her, they still welcome her in with open arms.  Once she gets to know them and sees how much they truly are there for each other, Lucy slowly starts to realize that she doesn’t have to carry her burdens alone, that her friends will be there to support her.

This theme of the importance of friendship was what resonated with me most, as did the idea that it’s perfectly okay to question your own faith and beliefs from time to time.  It’s all just a normal part of that journey to find yourself and figure out your place in the world.

 

The only real issue I had with The Names They Gave Us is with the way Emery Lord left one important aspect of the story unresolved.  I don’t want to give away the ending so I’m going to be a little vague here.  I know this is Lucy’s story and that I should be satisfied knowing that she’ll be okay no matter what happens, but I still wanted to know how everything was going to turn out for her family.  I guess maybe I got a little too invested in the Hansson family but the characters were just so beautifully drawn that I couldn’t help but fall in love with them all.

 

With its focus on heavy topics such as cancer and religion, The Names They gave Us is not what I would consider to be a light contemporary read.  It is a beautiful read though and one I would highly recommend if you’re into books that focus on love, friendship, family, and faith.

 

 

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS

When it all falls apart, who can you believe in?

Everything is going right for Lucy Hansson, until her mom’s cancer reappears. Just like that, Lucy breaks with all the constants in her life: her do-good boyfriend, her steady faith, even her longtime summer church camp job.

Instead, Lucy lands at a camp for kids who have been through tough times. As a counselor, Lucy is in over her head and longs to be with her parents across the lake. But that’s before she gets to know her coworkers, who are as loving and unafraid as she so desperately wants to be.

It’s not just new friends that Lucy discovers at camp—more than one old secret is revealed along the way. In fact, maybe there’s much more to her family and her faith than Lucy ever realized.

four-half-stars

About Emery Lord

Hi! I’m Emery. I’m the author of four novels about teenage girls:  OPEN ROAD SUMMER, THE START OF ME & YOU, WHEN WE COLLIDED, and THE NAMES THEY GAVE US.  I was born near a harbor on the East coast and raised near a beach, an ocean, a great lake, and the Ohio River. I’m a longtime Cincinnatian, where we love good beer, good music, and our public library.   I’m married to a scientist who shuts down every wedding dance floor, and we are owned by two rescue dogs.  I believe in the magic of storytelling, Ferris wheels, and you.” – Emery Load, in her own words

Waiting on Wednesday – Spotlight on The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord

New WoW“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, which encourages fellow bloggers to spotlight upcoming releases that we’re excited about.

My “Waiting On” Wednesday selection for this week is The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord.  The stunning cover is what first caught my eye, but once I read the synopsis and all of the advance reviews, I knew this book just had to go on my wish list. It sounds like it’s going to be a beautiful and moving read.

The Names They Gave Us

by Emery Lord

Publication Date:  May 16, 2017

From Amazon:

From the acclaimed author of When We Collided comes a vibrant, compelling story of love, loss, faith, and friendship.

Lucy Hansson was ready for a perfect summer with her boyfriend, working at her childhood Bible camp on the lake and spending quality time with her parents. But when her mom’s cancer reappears, Lucy falters-in her faith and in her ability to cope. When her boyfriend “pauses” their relationship and her summer job switches to a different camp-one for troubled kids-Lucy isn’t sure how much more she can handle. Attempting to accept a new normal, Lucy slowly regains footing among her vibrant, diverse coworkers, Sundays with her mom, and a crush on a fellow counselor. But when long-hidden family secrets emerge, can Lucy set aside her problems and discover what grace really means?

Emotionally-charged and unforgettable, Emery Lord’s storytelling shines with the promise of new love and true friendship, even in the face of life’s biggest challenges.

Check out this Advance Praise for The Names They Gave Us!

“A vividly drawn novel of how we believe, how it changes, and how it changes us. In Lucy Hansson, Emery Lord gives us a narrator so vibrantly real that by the last chapter she felt like a friend I’d grown up with. Lucy’s journey is as unforgettable as her voice.” – Anna-Marie McLemore, author of Morris Award Finalist THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS and National Book Award longlisted WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS

“This is more than a love story. When We Collided carefully yet effortlessly puts mental illness in conversation with the beauty and struggle of adolescence. It is a book I wish could have written, but am so much better for having read.” ―Julie Murphy, #1 New York Times bestselling author of DUMPLIN’ and SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY on WHEN WE COLLIDED

“Searingly honest, gut-wrenchingly authentic, and deeply romantic, When We Collided is a gift of a novel. It tackles tough topics with nuance, and will make readers both laugh and cry, sometimes within the span of a page.” ―Jasmine Warga, author of MY HEART AND OTHER BLACK HOLES on WHEN WE COLLIDED

“A five-star must-read romance for older teens (and up) that will challenge readers toward a better understanding of a too-often marginalized and stigmatized segment of the population, When We Collided is an important book not only for this generation of teens, but those who’ve come before . . . and those who will come after.” ―USA Today on WHEN WE COLLIDED

An absolute tearjerker romance with a powerful message about weightier topics of grief and mental illness.” ―starred review, School Library Journal on WHEN WE COLLIDED

“In sharp contrast to darker, more issue-driven YA books, this title keeps truer to the problems that most teens face. The protagonist’s upbeat attitude will inspire readers to persevere even during the low points in life.” ―starred review, School Library Journal on THE START OF ME AND YOU

“This is the teen world as it should be, full of good times and good friends to temper life’s inevitable sorrows, big and small. Fans of Sarah Dessen and Deb Caletti will want to add Emery Lord to their summer reading list.” ―BCCB on THE START OF ME AND YOU

“Lord offers a sweet story of love and loss. . . . The author is gentle with Paige as she struggles to redefine herself both in school and at home, as well as figure out who understands her best as she stumbles toward new romance.” ―Publishers Weekly on THE START OF ME AND YOU

“Reads like an ode to unconditional love that will keep readers firmly believing in believing.” ―Booklist on OPEN ROAD SUMMER

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I’d love to hear what upcoming book releases you’re waiting on this Wednesday? Leave me your link in the comments below and I’ll stop by and check out your WoW selection for this week. 🙂