Book Review: My Name Is River

It’s 1983, and twelve-year-old River Starling’s life is anything but normal. She was adopted on a whim and came without a birth certificate. Her adoptive parents gave her up to her grandmother when she was only two, but River is certain her parents will come back.

River’s hopes fall apart when Gram uproots them from their farmhouse and decides to move to Birdsong, West Virginia, the most miserable town River has ever seen. There she makes an unlikely friendship with an unusual boy and learns about acceptance, hard work, forgiveness, and the love of Jesus.

Discover the unforgettable story of one girl’s search for a place to call home.” (from Goodreads)

The second book actually caught my attention first with its promise of a scoliosis rep, but I picked this one up too and really enjoyed it. (It was actually one of the last books I bought at my local Christian bookstore before it shut down. A moment of silence for brick and mortar, please.)

It was so good. Definitely love-at-first-paragraph with the writing style. The characters really leapt off the page, and I felt like I knew them. River was a super cool, resilient kid. I especially loved her parenthetical asides and (sometimes theologically incorrect XD) tween-logic. She made me feel just what it would be like to be her. Gram reminded me so much of someone I once knew and loved as my own adopted grandmother. Just the little quirks of her saving up for her pitcher or doing makeshift physical therapy were lovely. And her no-nonsense love for River was the best.

I loved Billy. I’d be friends with him in a heartbeat. His creativity and his knowledge of birds, his upstanding and gentle heart, and his absolutely wonderful attitude toward his disability were just a few of my favorite things about him. His relationship with his family was super sweet as well.

I also loved how the Gospel message and theme of true identity were skillfully and seamlessly woven through the story.

I originally picked up this book for my younger sisters, but it ended up being more tragic and dark than I was expecting, so I’m having second thoughts about sharing it with them now. One character’s backstory included SPOILER ALERT! kidnapping, and there was bullying that lead to DISTURBING SPOILER! the death of a child. *cries*

Altogether, I enjoyed this book though it made my heart hurt with sadness and some hope by the end.

I would also love to hear from an OwnVoices reviewer what they thought of the portrayal of Billy’s disability.

4 thoughts on “Book Review: My Name Is River

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