A teen’s discovery that she spent 19 months in foster care as an infant sends her searching for answers.
Jules’ single mom, an addict in long-term recovery who has kept Jules’ origins secret, prefers painting in her studio to spending time with her daughter (mother and daughter are assumed white). Confronted with evidence of Jules’ placement in foster care, her mom says only that she relinquished her during a one-time relapse. Jules’ friends Gab, cherished daughter of Jewish psychologists, and Leila, adopted by affluent parents from a Ukrainian orphanage, encourage her to seek her foster family. Through social media she connects with former foster brother Luke and learns his Jewish parents longed to adopt her and were heartbroken when she was returned to her mother. With Luke’s mother battling cancer, Jules spends a reunion weekend with his loving, financially comfortable family, contrasting their lives with the neglect she’s experienced. She also crushes over Luke (amid titillating fears it’s incestuous). Like Eli—Jules’ gay, goth barista friend—Luke’s an underdeveloped character. The demographically atypical depiction of foster care raises questions: why wasn’t Jules placed with relatives? Why did Luke’s family foster when their goal was to adopt? However, the stronger final chapters honor the myriad complexities of family life.
Despite flaws, Jules’ hard-won insights into what families can give us and what we must find and create on our own make for a moving read. (Fiction. 14-18)