Hi everyone. Today I have a review for you as part of the Sunday Street Team hosted by Nori at Read Write Love 28.
Title: Where You’ll Find Me
Author: Natasha Friend
Published: March 8, 2016 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR))
Genres: Middle Grade, Contemporary
Themes: Family, Friendship, Mental Illness
Source: Sunday Street Team (curtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR))
Rating: 5 Stars
The first month of school, thirteen-year-old Anna Collette finds herself…
Dumped by her best friend, Dani, who suddenly wants to spend eighth grade “hanging out with different people.”
Deserted by her mom, who’s in the hospital recovering from a suicide attempt.
Trapped in a house with her dad, a new baby sister, and a stepmother young enough to wear her Delta Delta Delta sweatshirt with pride.
Stuck at a lunch table with Shawna the Eyebrow Plucker and Sarabeth the Irish Stepper because she has no one else to sit with.
But what if all isn’t lost? What if Anna’s mom didn’t exactly mean to leave her? What if Anna’s stepmother is cooler than she thought? What if the misfit lunch table isn’t such a bad fit after all?
With help from some unlikely sources, including a crazy girl-band talent show act, Anna just may find herself on the road to okay.
Cover Thoughts: I love how cute the cover is. It’s really bright and attention seeking. The bicycle and girl really emphasize the slightly messed up childhood of Anna.
First Line: I used to think your friends were your friends no matter what, but that’s not how it works.
~Why I Wanted To Read~
What first drew my eye to Where You’ll Find me was seeing that it dealt with a girl named Anna who had a mentally ill parent. This is one of my favorite shorelines because I can relate to that. I was interested in seeing how Anna dealt with her ‘newfound’ family and lack of a best friend.
I am such a fan of stories that revolve around friendship and family at the forefront. Where You’ll Find Me was exactly that. It was a refreshing change from reading stories that dealt with romance in some form. That’s not to say I’m not a fan of romance in books, but it’s always nice to read such a fulfilling friendship and family dynamic book. I loved seeing Anna’s relationships change throughout Where You’ll Find Me.
To say Anna’s dealing with a lot is a complete understatement. She’s left motherless (in a way), friendless and even family-less having to live with a father she doesn’t really know and his new family.
Anna was such a strong character and despite dealing with her mother’s mental illness, which matured her, she always acts her age. Anna grew up fast given her mother’s condition and her dad always being gone prior to the book’s beginning. Sometimes, in novels, characters will act older than they are because of their experiences. This isn’t bad, but I did like that Anna seemed like a regular thirteen year old girl who didn’t randomly drop philosophical thoughts. I really felt for Anna because she would blame herself for not noticing her mother spiraling down. Anna’s feelings were really varied, she was angry, sad, upset, scared, feeling guilty and of course, worried.
After Anna’s mother attempts suicide, Anna keeps the knowledge from people like her new friends she makes. I liked seeing Anna keep her family’s situation to herself and try to cope with it alone. This is so understandable because you never know how people will react. It was sad to see her think about her old friendship with Dani. Losing friends is always hard, especially when they’re the ones to leave.
The people Anna least expected to become friends with end up being the ones that accept her and welcome her. It was great to see so many interactions between Anna and her friends. She became closest friends with Sarabeth and Shawna. Both of them had interesting quirks and problems in their own lives. Sarabeth did irish clog dancing and Shawna has her own problem, which was trichotillomania (plucking hair). I was surprised to see trichotillomania in this novel since it’s not very well known. I liked how it helped Anna sort of “bond” with Shawna. Between Sarabeth’s silliness and Shawn’s sarcasm, I grew to really appreciate these girls in Anna’s life.
I liked that not only could I relate to Anna, but I could also relate to Marnie and Anna’s father. Marnie is my age and practically freshly out of college. Her wanting to go back to college made me nostalgic for my own college experience. I liked how she still wasn’t quite sure about where she was in life. I initially had reservations about Marnie because she was so young and married to someone so much older than her. Anna also had reservations about Marnie which was understandable. In the end, that didn’t matter to me. Marnie genuinely cared for Anna’s father as well as Anna.
I could unexpectedly relate to Anna’s father because he couldn’t deal with Anna’s mother mental illness. While cold, it seemed very true to life because not everyone can deal with such a serious thing. This dug a bigger ridge between his relationship with Anna which gradually changed.
I really liked how in addition to friends, Anna also had adults she could go to. There was Regina, her mother’s best friend, the school counselor and the English teacher who all reached out to her. It was nice to see that Anna wasn’t alone when she was going through this, even though it seemed that way to her.
As for Anna’s mother, she was an interesting character as well. In the beginning, she’s just diagnosed with depression but is later diagnosed with something else. I thought the portrayal of this mental illness was really well done. It was realistic to see how differently her mother would act and Anna never knowing how her mother would be.
I loved that despite Anna’s mother having a mental illness, her and Anna got along well a lot of the time, before the suicide attempt. Having a parent attempt suicide is an unbelievably hard thing to go through, due to this Anna is more reserved with her mother, which isn’t a surprise. Anna’s mother was constantly at the forefront of Anna’s mind. So much that Anna couldn’t sleep, would wake up from nightmares and have to leave class. The effects were so well done, relatable and intense in how ‘deep she would get in with the worrying. My heart broke over her not being able to get a break from worrying.
At the end of Where You’ll Find Me, Anna’s voice was finally really heard in the school talent show. It was a great progression from who she was in the beginning to who becomes. I found it hard to read the ending because I didn’t want it to end. I wanted to stay in Anna’s world and see how she grew up in high school and dealt with her mother.
Mark this as the book to get me more interested in Middle Grade fiction. In the past, I never thought about reading middle grade fiction, especially being a bit older than the main characters. Where You’ll Find Me showed that it doesn’t matter how old the characters are, I can still relate a lot to preteens and early teens.
Where You’ll Find Me is a book with substance that I enjoyed a lot. I love the references at the end for middle graders who may have parents with mental illness. This is an emotional, heartfelt and fun book to read. Although it was dark with Anna’s mother, it had a lot of lightheartedness with Marnie and Anna’s friends. Friend did a great job at combining everything into this beautiful book.
(Taken from ARC, subject to change)
- For a moment I forget all about my mom and it feels so good.
- The tension is so thick I almost wish it were a school day so I had somewhere to go.
- Funny what you remember.
- I wonder if this is what my mother feels, like a house in the middle of the night. Black and silent. Bottomless.
- I hate when that happens. When the perfect bubble you’ve been blowing pops in your face.
- You know how depression hits?…It’s like an avalanche. No warning. You’re just knocked off your feet. You reach for a ledge… no ledge. You reach for a branch…no branch. You just keep falling. When you hit the bottom, everything around you settles like concrete. You’re up to your neck and you can’t move. All you can do is wait.
~Do I Recommend?~
~Who Do I Recommend It To?~
- Fans of Contemporary Middle Grade
- Middle Graders seeking deeper issue books
- Anyone dealing with a parent who has a mental illness