Review: Far From The Tree by Robin Benway

Publication Date: October 3, 2017

After having a baby and giving her up for adoption, Grace decides to search for her own biological mother, only to discover her sister and brother.

Maya doesn't fit in with her family, but she's always known she's adopted. When her biological sister finds her, it leads them both on a journey of sisterhood.

Joaquin has been in the system all his life. When his sisters appear, it changes his life and forces him to re-think some decisions.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Date Read: December 26, 2018

A couple of my classmates read this for their podcast project at the end of the semester, and I heard them talk about the book before reading it on my own, so I was already aware of some of the issues they had with the book.

I've never read any other books, at least to my memory, that deal with adoption and finding one's birth family. A few of my friends throughout my life have been adopted as children, and some of them have tried to find their other birth parents, while others haven't. But I've never been close to anyone going through that process, so I can't really speak to how accurate this is. According to my classmates, who were able to speak with the author, there was a lot of research done on this topic before it was written.

Firstly, I really didn't know much of what to expect before going into this. I knew that there were three main characters, but I didn't know much besides that. Because of that, I think I was caught off guard with a lot of how things went down and the way the characters acted.

Considering the age gap between them, Joaquin being 18, Grace being 16, and Maya being 15, it was easy to see how they got into conflict with each other really easily. Kids who are closer in age tend to fight more, and that's definitely something that happened here. But it felt natural since they were getting to know each other and trying to figure out how to be siblings with each other, especially in terms of figuring out their roles as siblings. Since Grace was adopted as an only child, she never had to deal with other siblings. On the other hand, Maya was an older sister in her adoptive family, and Joaquin had many foster siblings, so they were more used to being in sibling relationships.

Something I wasn't expecting was for all of them to be dealing with such hard things in their personal life in addition to finding their birth family. My classmates mentioned that it felt like the author was trying to deal with too many serious topics at once, and I have to agree with that. She could have afforded to ease back on the drama in their personal lives when there was already so much going on.

The romances were...lackluster. For both girls, it was hard to see what they really liked about their significant others. With Grace, it was clear that it was more about the support her love interest offered, but Maya's relationship felt like it made less sense. There was less talk about what brought them together aside from the clear similarities in interests and their physical attraction. The only romance that I felt was more fleshed out and realistic was Joaquin's, which is ironic because it had ended before the book began. But it was handled the best, and I felt like it was the most well-written of the three.

The parental figures in this book felt really unbalanced. Maya's parents had a lot of issues of their own, and they weren't really in a place to raise her or help her process through the discovery of her siblings and the idea of looking for her biological mother. Grace's parents felt really absent, even though they tried to be there for her. It just didn't feel like they were really connecting with their daughter. It was only Joaquin's foster parents who really felt like parents. They were everything that parents should be, and I liked that there was at least one set of good parents in this book, cause the other ones were kinda crappy.

As far as the overall story goes, I think it was fairly well done. The author covered a lot in this book, and because of that, she couldn't flesh everything out in the way that I think she wanted to. That being said, her efforts were clear and I think it set a good foundation for the book. If she were to write sequels following the siblings again, I think she'd have a lot to work with and a lot more that she could explore.

I was really satisfied with the ending. It was well done and the conflicts were handled well. Considering how many things had to be tied up, I think that most of them were done in a satisfactory manner. I would have liked to have found out a little more about some other things, but it was just too much for the author to deal with all at once.

With all the good and bad things that I have to say about this, what really fell flat for me in the end was the writing. I wanted more from the book, and I didn't get it. I wanted to be more engaged and sympathetic to all the characters, but I wasn't getting that. It could have been a better book for me, but in the end, it was just missing something.

I liked Grace and I think that she went through a very interesting journey by herself and with her siblings. It was hard to read about some of the pain she was experiencing from giving up her baby, but I could understand how conflicted she felt about the decision.

Maya annoyed me the most out of the three siblings, mostly due to her age and the way she made really rash decisions without stopping to think about the consequences. I wanted her to be more fleshed out, but it felt like she was the most static of the three. Despite the fact that her character was clearly meant to go through a huge arc, it didn't work well enough to fully flesh her out in the same way that the other two were.

Of the three, Joaquin was my favorite and the most fleshed out. He went through a lot for someone his age, and the way that he was settling into his life as a foster kid being in the same home for more than a few months, I thought it made sense that he was very hesitant of a lot of things. He had the most character development out of the three and clearly went through a bigger arc than his sisters.

3 stars. I really wish that there was some way for this book to be more fleshed out without making it any longer, but I think the best way for everyone to get what they want is to give them their own book. For the representation of adoption, I think it does a decent job, and I would recommend it for people who want to give this to someone else who might have gone through the adoption process or is wanting to read about the subject.

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