Why is there a gap in Jules’s baby album? A wry and poignant coming-of-age novel about finding the truth in lies, salvaging hope in heartbreak, and making peace with missing pieces.
Eighteen-year-old Jules has always wished for a close-knit family. She never knew her father, and her ex-addict mother has always seemed more interested in artistic endeavors than in bonding with her only daughter. Jules’s life and future look as flat and unchanging as her small Illinois town. Then a simple quest to find a baby picture for the senior yearbook leads to an earth-shattering discovery: for most of the first two years of her life, Jules lived in foster care. Reeling from feelings of betrayal and with only the flimsiest of clues, Jules sets out to learn the truth about her past. What she finds is a wonderful family who loved her as their own and hoped to adopt her — including a now-adult foster brother who is overjoyed to see his sister again. But as her feelings for him spiral into a devastating, catastrophic crush — and the divide between Jules and her mother widens — Jules finds herself on the brink of losing everything.
About the Author
Paula Garner spends most of her time writing, reading, or making good things to eat. Her debut YA novel, Phantom Limbs, was a 2017 Illinois Reads selection. She lives in the Chicago area with her family and a very bad cat.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Jules, a senior, is looking for a baby picture for her senior yearbook when she notices an odd gap in her pictures. Soon after she discovers that for most of the first two years of her life she lived in foster care. She is shocked as she had no idea. Her mom is an alcoholic, and while she is sober now and has been for years, she had problems when Jules was a baby. Jules goes on to meet her foster family, yet another surprise when she finds out that they had been planning on adopting her. And a foster brother a few years older that has never forgot her either. It was interesting. The shock of Jules finding out she was in foster care. Her being nervous about meeting her foster family, how they had wanted to adopt her. What would her life have been like if they had adopted her? Her mom is an alcoholic, and does have her problems, but she does love her daughter. I imagine she worked hard to get sober and get her daughter back. Thoughtful book about foster care, adoption, and a former alcoholic.
2.5 Stars I'm definitely in the minority here, but I really struggled with this book. A major issue for me was that I found the main character, Jules, so young sounding. I kept imagining her as a freshmen or sophomore in high school as oppose to a senior. I also had a hard time believing that having a gap in pictures would cause such a shock and crises. There are plenty of age gaps in my family photos and I've never once thought anything of it. However, plenty of other reviewers are completely in love with Relative Strangers so I'm chalking this up to a case of "it's not you, it's me."
I received this book from NetGalley and Candlewick Press in exchange for an honest review. Relative Strangers is an amazing coming of age tale that tackles all the feelings that come with trying to figure out who you are, where you fit in, and unrequited love. Garner tackles important topics like alcoholism, addiction, loss of a parent, sexuality, and abandonment issues. It is a big challenge to stuff that many topics and issues into one book and Garner does it with finesse and grace; and most importantly not leaving any loose ends. The whole story happens within the course of Jules’ senior year of high school. She discovers something about her past that her mother has kept a secret from her for her entire life. Through detective work, support from her friends, and Facebook, she finds the one person that might be can tell her everything that is missing from her history. Jules’ embarks on a quest to find herself, her past, and her way back to reconnecting emotionally with her mother. Not only does Paula Garner write such a wonderful story but she creates characters that suck you into the intricate weavings of the story. You feel like you’re one of the girls. I felt like Jules, Gab, and Leila were some of my closest friends. I laughed with them, cried with them, and I cheered for them. One thing I often find difficult when you have so many characters is how to make them grow as the book goes on. Garner did this without making it feel forced. Each of the characters grew in their own way as they took on the rights of passage set in their paths. Relative Strangers is a story that I think all people will be able to relate to in one way or another. I also think that it’s a great book for teens to read that teaches about appreciating and enjoying the relationships you have with the people around you. Garner kept the emotional twists coming, the pages turning, and the tears flowing well into the night. I highly recommend checking out this book if you’re into Contemporary Coming of Age stories.