ARC Review: Half a World Away by Cynthia Kadohata

Cynthia KadohataGenres: 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.

REVIEW

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.

Rating Report
Plot
Characters
Writing
Pacing
Overall: 4.5
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Rashika

Rashika is a mysterious creature who likes to hide in the shadows. It's impossible to get to know her but if you must know, she is a huge bookworm. She also happens to have a huge sweet tooth so you can always lure her over the dark side by offering her something sweet (or bribing her with books).

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    • Rashika says

      I hope you do. I REALLY hope you do, Dre!

      Middle grade tends to be good, or at least in my non-existent experience :P

    • Rashika says

      MG is a magical world and I am finally getting back into it… :)

      YAY I am glad to hear that :D I hope you enjoy it!

    • Rashika says

      I don’t either.. I used to read them a lot as a kid (obviously) but I was a little vary about reading them now because I wondered if I would relate to the protagonists as easily. I am actually sad I felt that way because it turns out MG is wonderful :D Even years later since I’ve dived into that genre.

      Thanks Janina! :)

  1. says

    I certainly agree about Cynthia Kadohata. I’ve read two of her books, and one of them was Kira Kira (oh the heartbreak). I love character-driven books, especially ones featuring children. I find them very endearing with their innocence. Although it seems Jaden has went through a lot already for his age. I love reading books that can move me.
    Francine Soleil recently posted…random sketch #fashionaryMy Profile

    • Rashika says

      REALLY? YOU’VE READ KIRA KIRA? The heartbreak in that one was strong. I read it when I was a kid and I basically died inside. It was so so sad.

      Jaden has went through a lot for his age but surprisingly he still has an air of innocence surrounding him which makes him all the more endearing :)

  2. says

    I haven’t read a MG book in a while and this author is new to me. I see I missed a lot. I love the sound of it and Jaden sounds like a realistic character and really interesting one. I love how this book focuses on him and especially how it also shows Kazakhstan’s culture. I’m so glad you enjoyed this one girl. Great review :)
    Tanja recently posted…Cover Reveal: Just as You Are by June StevensMy Profile

    • Rashika says

      It was.. it was so so so sweet, Joy!! :) And SO loveable. I just want to cuddle with it but I only have the e-arc! :(

  3. says

    Oh! A MG novel with a very rough premise? This one sounds like a sure-fire winner! I fell in love with the description. I find it amazing that MG novels take a bigger risk than YA novels when it comes to subjects like adoption and family infrastructure.

    LOVE IT!
    Lyn Kaye recently posted…Stacking the Shelves #91My Profile

    • Rashika says

      I know right? MG seems so much more diverse than YA because of the risks authors aren’t afraid to take. Tropes are less common in MG and handled better IMO…

      I hope you love the book, Lyn!!

    • Rashika says

      And in a realistic way too. Jaden obviously has issues but at the same time… he is just such a loveable character. You just want to hug him.

      It’s a beautiful read :’)

  4. says

    MG covers are the cutest! I don’t read them though, but I still love the covers, the ideas and the feels I get from everyone’s reviews. Jaden sounds awful at first, but seems like he does really grow from all of the experiences. I’m so happy to hear that this one moved you and I hope that if you decide to pick something else up by this author, you’ll enjoy it just as much :)
    Siiri recently posted…Review: Coming Home by Priscilla GlennMy Profile

    • Rashika says

      They are aren’t they? The cover for this book is perfect. If I have the money, I am tots my goats buying a copy of this. It’s GORGEOUS. He isn’t actually awful.. he never is. That’s what’s surprising I guess.

      I actually added another book by this author :D She’s definitely a childhood fav and since this is the first book I’ve read by her in years, I am definitely want to read the rest :)

    • Rashika says

      Thanks Carina!! :)

      It is such a gorgeous heartbreaking book but it has an HEA which just makes it all the better :)

  5. says

    ZOMG, Rashika . . . okay first, I’m sorry I missed this one. Right. That’s out of the way . . . this book . . . this book might just kill me. I was adopted when I was ten. Not the same, b/c it was by my stepfather, so I wasn’t raised “in the system,” but before my parents got divorced when I was EIGHT, and for awhile afterwards too . . . it wasn’t easy. I feel like I know Jaden, and I haven’t even read the book yet. But I think I need to. Lovely review, dollface. If I’m suddenly an absolute MESS sometime over the next few weeks, you’ll know why . . . GAH.
    Jessica @ Rabid Reads recently posted…Mini Reviews: For a Few Demons More & The Outlaw Demon Wails by Kim HarrisonMy Profile

  6. Rashika says

    I cannot imagine how hard it must have been for you *tackle hugs*
    *hands a platter of cookies*
    (I HELPED BAKE THEM)

    I think you should, Jess, I really think you should. I think you’ll love him! :) and if you do end up reading it, you HAVE to let me know how you felt
    *hugs again*