Author: Angela Johnson
Series: Heaven (Book #1)
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Number of Pages: 144
Angela Johnson’s books are all really short so I’ll almost always give them a chance. I’ve found there’s something I really like about the way she writes even though overall the chances I’ll actually like something by her are pretty much 50/50. Out of the books I’ve read by her, Heaven was squarely in the middle for me; the prose was perfectly competent but the story itself was just okay. I did enjoy getting to see Bobby from The First Part Last, which was better than this book. The central character here is Marley, who lives in a small town named Heaven with her parents and brother.
Her best friend has some serious emotional problems but Marley herself is pretty much the happiest fourteen-year-old you could ever hope to meet. That is, until the horrible moment she realizes that she’s adopted and her elusive Uncle Jack who has been writing letters back and forth with her for years is her biological father. Realizing that the people claiming to be her parents are actually her aunt and uncle, Marley completely withdraws into a shell of anger and utter disbelief. The whole book is about whether she’ll be able to forgive the people who raised her and cope with their deception or not.
The thing is, if I found out I was adopted it would freak me out. For a little while. But the fact stands that Uncle Jack gave her up because he didn’t want the responsibility of raising her. Her ‘parents’ should have told her earlier but they did a great job raising her, and not even Marley can argue with that. So her endless moping about how she’s been living a lie and she hates the imposters she’s living with and can’t even look at them seems… I don’t know, a bit overly?
If she had lived with Uncle Jack her lifestyle would have been fun but highly transient and unstable, but he chose not to keep her and her also chose to help keep the truth a secret. I feel like the heroine would have done us a favor if she had realized sooner what a good life she’s been given despite everything, and hadn’t spent the book going on about what a big tragedy it all was. I understand that the adoption thing was difficult for her, but her angst didn’t hold my interest or my sympathy for very long.
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