Tuesday, March 1, 2016

look at her go: reviewin' reviewin': some kind of happiness

Some Kind of Happiness
Claire Legrand

release date: May 17 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers




• Her parents, who are having problems. (But they pretend like they’re not.)
• Being sent to her grandparents’ house for the summer.
• Never having met said grandparents.
• Her blue days—when life feels overwhelming, and it’s hard to keep her head up. (This happens a lot.)

Finley’s only retreat is the Everwood, a forest kingdom that exists in the pages of her notebook. Until she discovers the endless woods behind her grandparents’ house and realizes the Everwood is real--and holds more mysteries than she'd ever imagined, including a family of pirates that she isn’t allowed to talk to, trees covered in ash, and a strange old wizard living in a house made of bones.

With the help of her cousins, Finley sets out on a mission to save the dying Everwood and uncover its secrets. But as the mysteries pile up and the frightening sadness inside her grows, Finley realizes that if she wants to save the Everwood, she’ll first have to save herself.

Reality and fantasy collide in this powerful, heartfelt novel about family, depression, and the power of imagination.

full review under the cut!

Thank you to Simon & Schuster for allowing me to read this! When the approval popped up on netgalley, I was so happy. What a beautiful little story this is. It is about Finley Hart, an 11 year old girl with an enormous imagination, as well as some secrets. Her parents are having troubles in their relationship, so Finley is sent to spend the summer with her grandparents, whom she has never known. Both parties, Finley and her grandparents and extended family, have secrets, and they will all be fleshed out over one whimsical, magical summer at the Hart family home.

First of all, I loved Finley with everything that I have. My heart went out to her so much, because she is struggling, with what will be apparent to readers as depression and anxiety, and she has no idea what to do about it. She doesn't understand why she feels incredibly tired one day and can't sleep the next, why she feels weighted down by terror and sad for no reason in particular. The way that Claire Legrand describes dealing with depression is incredible, especially from the perspective of an 11-year-old. I thought this book handled mental illness really well, through Finley's descriptions of her "blue days" and various symptoms that she does not feel she can share. It was her struggle with keeping these secrets inside her that made me so sad: Finley feels out of place in the home of the family that she has never met, and she does not want to become even more of a burden by telling people about her secret sorrows. Furthermore, she does not think that people will be able to understand the things that she is feeling, and that is the most frustrating thing of all. Finley is an amazing main character, full of life and imagination, always telling stories and writing, and I feel like the narration is done in such a way that we can really get into her head and feel what she is feeling, which just makes the book amazing, in my opinion.

There are sections in this book that are excerpts from Finley's journals, where she writes down stories about her imaginary (or quite realistic, in the woods behind her grandparent's house) world of The Everwood. These stories that she writes, about the magical Everwood and all its inhabitants, served to give another peek into Finley's mind while also moving the story along. For example, Finley is portrayed in these excerpts as "the orphan girl," and her cousin Gretchen as "the lady knight," and these stories are told in a different tone, not the first person narration of the chapters, but the things that happen in these sections are also real. It's very interesting, I loved how it is never explicitly stated that these "make-believe" sections are real, but the reader comes to find that out as the book progresses.

I loved the secondary characters in this novel, and there were a lot of them. Regarding Finley as the sole main characters relegates everyone else into "secondary character" mode, but some were definitely more important than others. Finley's cousins: Gretchen, Kennedy, Ruth, Dex and Avery are definitely important to the story. In these bonds that Finley forms with her cousins, she finds belonging and a place that she had never realized she could have before. Her relationship with Avery, who is 17 and seems impossibly mature to Finley, was so sweet. I love the loyalty and implicit trust that these kids have among each other, it made me heart melt. Then there are the Bailey boys: Cole, Jack and Bennett. Though Finley's grandparents warn her to stay away from them, a relationship springs up between the Hart kids and these Bailey pirates all the same. I think that this just goes to show the resilience and love of children. I loved the fact that all of these kids jumped into Finley's world of The Everwood willingly, I think that was something that meant a lot to her and to me, as a reader.

As for the adults, there are Grandpa and Grandma, the wealthy patriarch and matriarch of the Hart family. They like to keep up appearances, no matter the cost. ( I won't say more on that because spoilers!) Then their three daughters, Finley's dad's sisters, her aunts. Aunt Bridget, Aunt Dee, and Aunt Amelia, called Stick. They are blonde and beautiful and fit right in with the Hart way, of keeping up appearances and togetherness. They love Finley, but sometimes don't know quite what to do with her. I liked their appearances in the story, though they were less vital than the grandparents or the cousins. Then Finley's mother and father, having problems at home. Her father has been completely estranged from the family since before Finley was born, and no one will tell her why. That secret, combined with exactly why she was warned away from the Baileys and also the pull of a half-burned down house nearby, will take up Finley's brain for the whole summer.

The plot of this story was relatively simple: an old, wealthy family with secrets is shaken up by a little girl, with secrets of her own, who genuinely thinks the woods behind their house is a magical wood called The Everwood. It is a great story, with some beautiful twists and turns as Finley uncovers the truths that the Hart family has been hiding for years. It is as if, with each secret she uncovers, Finley comes closer to being ready to confront her own secrets. It is a melancholy and magical look at mental illness, especially depression and especially in children. It also explores how deep friendship can be formed between blood relations, and how much it takes for those bonds to be broken. It doesn't read like a middle grade, though it would be appropriate for children, and I would definitely recommend it to fans of magical realism, Stargirl, and things of that nature.

what a great read!


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