Unrated | 368 pages | Candlewick Press | Contemporary | 04/10/2018
I am all for quiet YAs that have interesting premises and haven’t been put through the giant hype machine. Relative Strangers is about Jules, a teen girl, who has always felt like there was something missing from the humdrum life she leads with her emotionally distant mother. Jules has a vintage adventurer’s sensibility and wants more than what her small town can offer.
When she discovers she was in foster care she goes off to reconnect with the foster family that raised her for the first year of her life. She forms a relationship with her former foster-brother, now a handsome pianist who gives her the confidence she’s been looking for.
Now, I was a little frustrated with the protagonist in this book in a way I’ve never been before. She admits she is envious of her two best friends’ big close families and she knows she shouldn’t be because they have issues too, but she just never lets it go. Even when she knows she should. Also, she is so distraught and angry and feels like she was lied to over the fact that her mother never told her she was in foster care for ONE YEAR ?! I mean I guess you could argue the first year is pretty formative but she acts like it was forever and. There are a lot of things for her to be frustrated with her mom about and this isn’t a big one.
Jules begins to struggle with the crush she is developing on her foster-brother and tries to be just a sister as he copes with the impending death of one of his parents, and you kind of want to yell at her to get her life right because other people are going through it. But despite the rough start with I think Jules grows as a character toward the end in a way that is satisfying and worth the journey.
I feel like this would be a good fit for fans of emotional family dramas
Jules has a gay goth BFF who lost his mom and works in a coffee shop during his gap year while writing a novel, taking care of his pet rats while waiting to get into the Iowa Writer’s Workshop who is obsessed with death. He seemed like he needed his own book and/or fell out of a John Green Book.
Check out the audio review at AudioFile Magazine