Monday, April 27, 2020

One Old, One New: The Jennifer Longo Edition


One Old, One New features two books - one old, one new, which are connected in some way. Today, I am sharing two books by Jennifer Longo!
What I Carry
Jennifer Longo
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Random House
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads
For readers of Robin Benway's Far From the Tree, a powerful and heartwarming look at a teen girl about to age out of the foster care system.

Growing up in foster care, Muir has lived in many houses. And if she's learned one thing, it is to Pack. Light.
Carry only what fits in a suitcase.
Toothbrush? Yes.
Socks? Yes.
Emotional attachment to friends? foster families? a boyfriend? Nope!
There's no room for any additional baggage.
Muir has just one year left before she ages out of the system. One year before she's free. One year to avoid anything--or anyone--that could get in her way.

Then she meets Francine. And Kira. And Sean.

And everything changes.
One more year. Muir just had to keep her head down for one more year, and then, freedom. What Muir wasn't planning on was being placed with Francine, or meeting Kira, or finding Sean. Attachments were never part of the plan, and now she must decide what her next steps will be.


Seriously! My heart just kept exploding, over and over, as I read this beautiful book. And, then when I read Longo's note at the end of the book, I was a hot mess of happy tears. I believe you should just read this book so you can feel all the feels, but I am going to share some other reasons why I loved it so much.

  1. John Muir - You may have noticed the interesting spelling of Muiriel's name. The spelling is a nod to the naturalist, John Muir. Muiriel was very dedicated to John Muir's teachings, and cited him often when explaining her own beliefs and lifestyle choices. I loved the way Longo wove Muir into this story. It was fascinating and enlightening. 
  2. Environmental Ethics - One of the things that Sean and Muiriel bonded over was their shared love of the environment. However, they had different idols, with very different philosophies. I enjoyed the arguments they got into, and loved how they challenged the established record and ideas of each naturalist. Between their discussions and getting to spend time at the wilderness camp, I learned a lot of new things. 
  3. The Foster Care System - Longo is personally acquainted with the foster care system having served as a foster parent, and included a lot of information about the system in this story. It was also easy to see, that she considered being a foster parent a special privilege, and it shows in this story. Her thoughts come through in the most wonderful ways via Francine, Muir's foster mother, while we learn a lot of the stigmas associated with being a foster child from Muir. 
  4. Found Family - I am trash for found family, and Muir lucked into a stupendous bunch of people. I already mentioned how Sean and Muir was tailor-made for each other, and how Francine was simply one of the best people ever! Then, there was Kira, who would become Muir's "person". I loved them all so much, and wait until you learn how Kira and Francine are linked. It's top-notch hankie sort of stuff.  I found myself rooting for these three to break Muir, because I wanted her hard shell to crack. I wanted her to let people love her, to let people in, and I believed these were the right people for her. 
  5. Terry Johnson - Terry Johnson was Francine's dog, and I fell in love with him. First of all, he was always address by his full name, which never failed to make me smile. He also was a great source of joy for so many, especially Muir, and obviously, I fell in love with him too. 
  6. The Things She Carried - Muir had a bag of items she ferried from placement to placement. Many of the items were small, and represented significant memories. Throughout the story, Muir digs these items out of the bag, and flashes back on the memory it holds. These were very telling moments, and many cracked my heart in half. I thought it was a fantastic way to help me, the reader, connect with and understand Muir on a deeper level. 
This was one of those books, which I feel I cannot fully explain my love for. All I know is that it made me so, so happy, and filled me with all sorts of joy. It was a such a beautiful story, and I just want everyone to experience it. 


Up to This Pointe
Jennifer Longo
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Random House
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads
She had a plan. It went south.

Harper is a dancer. She and her best friend, Kate, have one goal: becoming professional ballerinas. And Harper won’t let anything—or anyone—get in the way of The Plan, not even the boy she and Kate are both drawn to.

Harper is a Scott. She’s related to Robert Falcon Scott, the explorer who died racing to the South Pole. So when Harper’s life takes an unexpected turn, she finagles (read: lies) her way to the icy dark of McMurdo Station . . . in Antarctica. Extreme, but somehow fitting—apparently she has always been in the dark, dancing on ice this whole time. And no one warned her. Not her family, not her best friend, not even the boy who has somehow found a way into her heart.
Harper and her best friend, Kate, had a plan to become professional dancers. In addition to practice, practice, practice, they would graduate early, and avoid romantic entanglements. But even the best laid plans can come undone, and Harper finds herself untethered. In an effort to get her life back on track, she weasels her way into a science program in Antartica, where she slowly comes to terms with the loss of her dream.

I was so captivated by Longo's latest release, What I Carry, that I ran to read more of her books. I picked this one, because, as a retired dance mom, I love stories about dancers. But, this book was an even better fit for me, because it's about grief and loss. No, no one died in this book, but Harper was still mourning a profound loss - the loss of her dream.

Harper lived for ballet. It was a life sustaining force for her, and here she was, so close to the future she dreamed of. The auditions were just a few short weeks away, when it all started to unravel. The idea, that if we dedicate ourselves and work hard, anything could be ours, but that's not always the case, and it was a hard truth for Harper to face. It was heartbreaking to hear her talk about the death of her ballet dream. There's one scene, where she described dance as a lover, who had rejected her. Her words were soaked in pain, and made my heart ache.

But, this book didn't just highlight Harper's failure, I also got to see her find a new, life-fulfilling dream. Along the way, I enjoyed so many wonderful, fun, and joyful events, and it was really interesting too.

Once again, Longo incorporated some historical figures. This time, I got to read a bit about the explorers, who raced to the South Pole. It was really beautiful how Longo was able to find a common thread between Harper and the explorers' journeys, and I loved that she was descended from one of the these intrepid explorers.

I was also a fan of the alternating narrative. It flipped between the present in Antartica and the past in San Francisco. The two timelines were lined up in such a wonderful way, that they fed off one another, with similar themes emerging at both points in time.

Although I was never a dancer, it was easy to relate to this story. It's quite a "growing up" moment, when you have to accept, that you cannot necessarily have everything you want. It also takes a lot of strength to use that pain, learn from it, and move forward. I think that's one of the biggest reasons I loved this book so much.

She was down, but never out, and it was easy to root for Harper as she properly grieved. Longo gave Harper a whole crew of amazing people to help her through this, and her new dream was even more magnificent, than the original.

Overall: A beautifully written story, which was full of hope.



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32 comments:

  1. The cover of What I carry is so catchy, thanks for bringing it to my attention :) I'm happy to read that you liked it.

    Beena @ Beena Khan

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    1. It's a beautiful cover, and after reading the story, I appreciate it even more. I can see the nods to Muir's love of nature, as well as some of those items she carried.

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  2. What I carry, goodness. So beautiful, so much hurt to be explored, but in the end, it sounds just wonderful!

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    1. It was such a touching story. The inspiration was Longo's own daughter, who she had adopted. She wanted to someone like herself, who had been through the system, but was scarred by it. I love that, and the story ended up being incredible.

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  3. These both sounds amazing! I’m really drawn to Up To This Pointe. Harper sounds like has a lot on her plate and her journey sounds like a powerful one. Plus having taken ballet for 12 years I’m drawn to the ballet aspect too.

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    1. You danced almost as long as Harper. I have a soft spot for these books, where the characters have their dreams crushed/lost, but then rebuild. I like seeing people recover from loss, and come back even stronger.

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  4. I remember reading Up to this Pointe and really enjoying it! I'm glad What I Carry is just as good, possibly even more! It sounds like it really hits right in the feels.
    Genesis @ Whispering Chapters

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    1. What I Carry was fantastic. I have no idea why people aren't talking about it more.

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  5. I've read Up to this Pointe and really enjoyed it. Glad that you liked it too.
    I love that in the new book the two bond over the environment! And I'm trash for found family too! I'll have to check it out!
    Great reviews, Sam!

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    1. Longo brings some interesting elements in her books. I loved the stuff with the explorers and the naturalists, and am looking forward to reading her first book, Six Feet Over It, and seeing how she uses the cemetery setting.

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  6. enjoyed the great reviews. really have me curious about what i carry, though it's not a genre i read a lot of
    sherry @ fundinmental

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    1. I am very impressed with Longo's books, and What I Carry was such a beautiful story. If you need a hit in the feels, read it.

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  7. It seems like Longo is a really consistent writer in terms of delivering unique stories about engaging characters.

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    1. These two books are my first experiences with her, and I am more than happy. I love her storytelling, and the interesting elements she weaves into the stories. I only have one book of her's left to read, and then I have to hope she has more stories to tell and wait for her next release.

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  8. I haven't read anything by this author - I thin I might try What I Carry!

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    1. This is my first (and second) experience, and it was fantastic! I had seen a lot of good buzz for What I Carry, but wasn't sure about Pointe. Both were excellent. I hope you get a chance to take a look.

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  9. I love that these were both 5 star reads for you! I appreciated seeing a positive side to foster care in What I Carry.

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    1. We all know there are horror stories, but I think it's great that Longo wanted to tell a story from this perspective

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  10. So I need to read ALL the Jennifer Longo is what you are saying? I shall! I have two of her books, but I do want to get the newest one as well. These both sound incredible, and you know I love me some feels so I need to get on them! Great reviews! (And hiking isn't really my jam- maybe a Lite Hike™? I can get behind that, but I am not trying to traverse mountains and such!)

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    1. I will definitely be reading her debut, because I like the way she tells a story. Both books worked so well for me. I am not an aggressive outdoors type person, but I did enjoy orienteering with my Girl Scouts, when Kiersten was younger. It was casual hiking, and we sang camp songs to keep the bears away.

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  11. OK Sam I just hordered a hard copy of What I Carry! You convinced me and the cover was too gorgeous just to buy an ebook LOL

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    1. YEAH!!! I hope you get a chance to read it. The story is as beautiful as that cover.

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  12. Wow! That What I Carry cover is GORGEOUS!

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    1. Agreed, and I like that it incorporates elements from the story too.

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  13. I LOVE the cover on What I Carry! Then I read the synopsis and it tugged at my heart. Then I read your review and being a volunteer naturalist myself, I knew I HAD to add this to my TBR!! Great reviews!

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    1. I was impressed by how much nature talk is incorporated into the story. It was a truly wonderful book!I hope you get to read it

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  14. Your review of What I Carry blew me away and then when I read the blurb and saw "for fans of Far From the Tree," I jumped over to Goodreads to add it to my TBR. It sounds incredibl!

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    1. I will admit, it was a good call. It does sort of have the feel of Far From the Tree. I thought the book was phenomenal

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  15. What I carry sounds like it was an excellent read. As soon as I saw it was about someone in foster care I just knew it would be good and then your review said about fund family! I'm a sucker for that kind of thing in my books. I am fully prepared for that book to hit me in my emotions. And glad to see you enjoyed up To This Pointe, it shows I shouldn't have been thrown by the dance/Antartica clash because that book sounds good. The idea of it involving grief and the loss of a dream is really interesting. I feel like as we grow up we're told we can be and do anything, which is a wonderfully empowering feeling, but we are never taught that hard work and dedication does not guarantee you achieving your dream and that's an important thing for anyone to realise. I really want to read that now too.

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    1. I love seeing found family in books, because sometimes, you don't win the family lottery, but you can find people to be your family, and they are just as important as people, who are blood related to you. I go for hours about the "if you work hard, you can do anything" idea, because it's just not true, and it's especially not the case with things like sports or the arts. I really appreciated the idea behind Up to This Pointe.

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  16. What I Carry has the most amazing cover...I love that!

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    1. I agree. It's so eye catching, and I liked that the artist worked in some of the "things" she carried in the story

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