RELATIVE STRANGERS by Paula Garner
Published: April 10, 2018 by Candlewick Pres
Format: Kindle e-book
Why is there a gap in Jules’s baby album? A wry and poignant coming-of-age novel about finding the truth in lies, salvaging hope in heartbreak, and making peace with missing pieces.
Eighteen-year-old Jules has always wished for a close-knit family. She never knew her father, and her ex-addict mother has always seemed more interested in artistic endeavours than in bonding with her only daughter. Jules’s life and future look as flat and unchanging as her small Illinois town. Then a simple quest to find a baby picture for the senior yearbook leads to an earth-shattering discovery: for most of the first two years of her life, Jules lived in foster care. Reeling from feelings of betrayal and with only the flimsiest of clues, Jules sets out to learn the truth about her past. What she finds is a wonderful family who loved her as their own and hoped to adopt her — including a now-adult foster brother who is overjoyed to see his sister again. But as her feelings for him spiral into a devastating, catastrophic crush — and the divide between Jules and her mother widens — Jules finds herself on the brink of losing everything.
I received a free ARC from Candlewick Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Superbly written and with a perfect blend of humour and sadness, Relative Strangers pulled me in from the very first page.
Jules is an incredible main character. I loved reading her thoughts, watching her discover and unfold the mysteries of her past and going through the motions with her. The best thing about Jules is that she is far from perfect, which is exactly how a good main character should be.
The side characters were equally lovable. Sometimes I wish they had a bigger role, and we could discover more about their own past. Maybe (hopefully!) Garner could explore that in a separate book!
The character development of both Jules and her mother was incredibly well written. They both made their fair share of mistakes but eventually found their way.
What I liked most about Relative Strangers (very clever title, by the way), is that I couldn’t predict the end. From the first chapter I thought I had it all figured out, and I knew where Garner was going with the story, but it ended up in a completely different direction. I love books that surprise you.
Relative Strangers has definitely intrigued me, and I look forward to reading more of Garner’s work.