The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord
Rating: 4 stars
I've been reading quite extensively this month and mostly fantasy novels which had culminated in a wonderful book that I'd become pretty invested in and so when I finished it I had to find something that would cure my book hangover without immediately plunging me into another lengthy fantasy. I needed something light, quick and contemporary and I'd heard nothing but good things about Emery Lord's The Names They Gave Us.
I've not read any books by this author before and I, therefore, was going on the recommendations of other book reviews and bloggers but the story in itself on the back cover synopsis was enough to pique my interest. The story of Lucy Hanson, a girl about to enter her final year of high school when her mother announces that her breast cancer has returned and she will need further treatment. Lucy's family have a strong faith, her father being a pastor, yet Lucy struggles with this turn of events and how it impacts her belief. Things are made more difficult when her mother suggests that she not help at the family church camp that year but instead work nearby at a summer camp for troubled kids where there is a role as a counsellor. Lucy is thrown entirely out of her comfort zone into a world she's unsure of and people she doesn't know when all she wants to do is be near her parents.
The first thing about this book is that the faith of the central character and all the surrounding people she engages with form a pretty strong theme in this book. At times Lucy almost measures people by their faith and how they live their lives according to their faith. She is a character who has led a relatively sheltered life and so when she engages with the kids and teens at the new summer camp it is an eye-opening experience. Whilst I didn't find Lucy to be an annoying character to read about there is definitely an innocence about her views and how she views the people around her. At the start of the book she has a pretty clear black and white view of the world, you are either good or you are not and she finds it hard to see the shades of grey. This could be a little off-putting to some readers I found it was one of the most enjoyable parts of the book to go on the journey with Lucy as she learned to be more adaptable in her views and choices.
The surrounding characters in this book are wonderful. The people Lucy meets at camp and the way their friendships grow throughout make it a really heart-warming story. Many of the people she works with have been working in the camp for more than one summer and so bring their maturity and experiences to the table and allow Lucy to learn from them. The bond they form as the book progresses is lovely to read about and you cannot help but be glad as Lucy moves away from the safety of the friends and acquaintances she's known to understand that friends aren't necessarily those you've known longest but those who are there for you when things get tough.
This was a quick read for me, completing it in around a day. I really enjoyed the story, the twists and turns about Lucy's relationship with her parents, the things she discovers about them over the summer and how she copes with her mother's increasingly severe illness. I had to knock off one star from the rating though because I wanted a little more time at the end to pull all the threads together. I felt we exited the story just a tiny bit early. I needed closure on Lucy's story and I didn't feel this was quite given the exploration it needed. A strong 4 out of 5 stars though and a good contemporary read about faith and family.