I enjoy MG books where there is a definite arc in the growth and change for a character. HALF A WORLD AWAY not only has that, but you will most likely find a change in yourself. Jaden is not a very likeable protagonist and I didn’t take to him right from the start. Thankfully by the end of the story I understood and appreciated this young boy.
Adopted from Romania at age 8, Jaden has never felt connected to his new family. He’s still confused why his birth mother gave him up in the first place. Most of the story is set in Russia where Jaden and his parents go to adopt a new baby boy – a brother Jaden does not want. It’s here the transformation begins and a different side of Jaden cracks through.
Told in close third person from Jaden’s view, the story is sad, hopeful, but in the end one you won’t soon forget.
PUBLICATION DATE:2014 WORD COUNT: 35,552 LEVEL: 4.7
FULL PLOT (From Amazon): Twelve-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.
FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT: HALF A WORLD AWAY by Cynthia Kadohata
- I was only partially aware of the potential horror stories that can come about with an overseas adoption. The author spares no detail but perhaps young readers will need some clarification. I can see this working wonders as a read-aloud giving a chance for discussion of this emotional topic.
- Jaden falls in love for the first time. No, not from a first youthful crush, but by bonding with a 3-year-old toddler nobody wants to adopt.
- Sam, the Turkish driver, is the first person to rattle Jaden’s perceptions of his life. He’s a perfect older friend who goes out of his way to help Jaden.
- Parents who love unconditionally are often absent from MG books. Not so here as Penni and Steve do their best to help Jaden become the greatest person possible.
- The book is like a gray, rainy day, but then the sun reappears and you smile. That’s exactly what I did after reading this beautiful story.
FAVORITE LINES: He figured he knew why they were adopting again: They weren’t satisfied with him. Whenever he thought that, he felt tears welling up. He didn’t know if he was upset for himself, because they weren’t satisfied with him, or for the baby, because if the baby was up for adoption, it meant the mother had abandoned him, and Jaden knew what that was like.
AUTHOR QUOTE: “I’m a road hawg! I love to travel around this amazing country. The beautiful landscape, the highways—I love it. Traveling, seeing the country, is one of the things from which I derive my “writing energy.” Just thinking about the American landscape and focusing on it puts me in touch with what I think of as the real, essential me. I have to be in touch with this real, essential me whenever I sit down to write.” (From Cynthia Kadohata’s website)
Check the links to other Middle Grade novels over at Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.