Genres: Contemporary, Adoption, Middle Grade
Release Date: September 2nd, 2014
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Source: eARC from Edelweiss
Check out on GOODREADS
A kid who considers himself an epic fail discovers the transformative power of love when he deals with adoption in this novel from Cynthia Kadohata, winner of the Newbery Medal and the National Book Award.
Eleven-year-old Jaden is adopted, and he knows he’s an “epic fail.’ That’s why his family is traveling to Kazakhstan to adopt a new baby—to replace him, he’s sure. And he gets it. He is incapable of stopping his stealing, hoarding, lighting fires, aggressive running, and obsession with electricity. He knows his parents love him, but he feels…nothing.
But when they get to Kazakhstan, it turns out the infant they’ve travelled for has already been adopted, and literally within minutes are faced with having to choose from six other babies. While his parents agonize, Jaden is more interested in the toddlers. One, a little guy named Dimash, spies Jaden and barrels over to him every time he sees him. Jaden finds himself increasingly intrigued by and worried about Dimash. Already three years old and barely able to speak, Dimash will soon age out of the orphanage, and then his life will be as hopeless as Jaden feels now. For the first time in his life, Jaden actually feels something that isn’t pure blinding fury, and there’s no way to control it, or its power.
From camels rooting through garbage like raccoons, to eagles being trained like hunting dogs, to streets that are more pothole than pavement, Half a World Away is Cynthia Kadohata’s latest spark of a novel.
I haven’t read a Middle Grade in a while, but after hitting a bump, I decided to go for this one because I knew Kadohata wouldn’t let me down. One of the books I can remember making a huge difference in my life as a kid was Kira Kira by the same author, which is why I was so sure I would love this one. I am so glad I wasn’t proven wrong. I’ve now read 3 of her works and have yet to be let down. This woman can work magic. Her stories are powerful and moving and this one was no different.
Half a World Away really looks at love and how it can change lives.
Jaden is a 12 year old and was adopted at the age of 8. He is a very difficult child and from the looks of it, and not a very happy one either. He steals and has a tendency to hoard things. He has also went through a phase where he set things on fire. None of this, however, portrays him as unlikeable because Jaden is very much likeable. His heartbreak really gets to you. He refuses to love his parents because of this deep-seated fear (that he himself probably doesn’t realize) that they’ll leave him just like his birth mother did. You can see his constant internal struggle to accept his adoptive parents and let go of his fear and his anger towards them.
This book IS very character driven and focuses on Jaden’s journey. There will be times you’ll want something more to happen, but you’ll realize there are so many things already happening with Jaden.
He and his parents are going to Kazakhstan to adopt a new baby and Jaden thinks that this is because they aren’t happy with him. Jaden struggles to not feel something for his parents, but at the same time he is so incredibly jealous of this baby. When they get there though, the baby is already gone. Adopted by another family and so his parents choose another baby. During the ‘bonding meetings’, Jaden meets a toddler, Dimash.
Dimash teaches Jaden how to love again. This 3 year old who cannot talk and is a special needs child teaches Jaden to stop hiding from his feelings. I kid you not when I say your heart will break watching the two interact because while Jaden is ‘falling in love’ with this kid, his parents are bonding with another baby.
The author takes advantage of the setting and also tries to get us readers involved in the culture of Kazakhstan. I will say that there is not a huge focus on this, but the author does incorporate aspects of it. She weaves it in while keeping the focus of the story on Jaden and how he grows.
There are a few secondary characters as well and the most noteable one is Sam. He is in his 60s, but he and Jaden hit it off. They become friends and Sam teaches Jaden, in his own way, to let go of his anger.
I think what makes this book so incredibly beautiful and moving is that it is so real. Jaden blames his adoptive parents for taking him away from the only home he has known. Even though it’s been 4 years he still feels unsafe which is why he hoards. He still fears that all this will be taken away from him and he isn’t ready to fully accept his new life in the States. It’s why he refuses to acknowledge that he loves his adoptive parents (well, we readers know… he doesn’t). So over the course of the book, Jaden starts to finally open up.
I am going to keep this review short, just like this book and urge everyone to give it a shot. It’s sweet and won’t fail to put a smile on your face and make you a little teary eyed as a result of all the happy emotions running through you.
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