Bound To Stay Bound

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School Library Journal - 12/01/2016 Gr 5–7—Eleven-year-old Flora and her younger brother, Julian, have lived in so many foster homes that they have no memories of growing up and no history. They believe not only that they were never babies but also that they were never even born. This startling notion hooks readers from the first chapter: What happened to the siblings before they were adopted by Emily (whom Flora refers to as "Person")? Carter (My Life with the Liars) delicately draws readers into the lives of a group of people overcoming obstacles as they learn how to become a family. Through Flora's skittish, yearning voice, Carter explains the siblings' reluctance to accept that they have found their forever home: "We can't help preparing for the fall." The family's fragile progress is tested when Emily and her husband reveal they're having a baby and Flora fights with Elena, teen daughter of Emily's husband. To help Flora and Julian embrace their future, Emily takes them on a journey into the past, visiting their former foster homes and caregivers. During the trip, Carter truly shows her skill, observing simple moments of the tenuous yet growing bond between mother and children while painting an unflinching portrait of the tragic shortcomings of the foster care system. Strong secondary characters flesh out the narrative, but the novel's heart belongs to the relationship among Emily, Flora, and Julian as they learn how to trust and to meet one another's needs. VERDICT Addressing contemporary family issues and a child's timeless desire for self-knowledge, this title is a first purchase for middle grade collections.—Marybeth Kozikowski, Sachem Public Library, Holbrook, NY - Copyright 2016 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.

Booklist - 02/01/2017 *Starred Review* After a long, troubling string of foster homes, 11-year-old Flora and her brother, Julian, were finally adopted two years ago. They’re starting to feel comfortable with their mom, Emily, but now she’s pregnant. The announcement raises distressing questions about “real” family and belonging, particularly because Flora and Julian know nothing about their biological parents, except that they were probably darker than Emily, who’s white, but lighter than Emily’s husband, who’s black. In Flora’s moving first-person narrative, the contrast between her poetic, perceptive inner monologue and the words she struggles to say out loud reveals the complicated process of sifting feelings of trust from a childhood full of abandonment, insecurity, and fear. When Emily takes Flora and Julian on a trip to visit the places they lived before she adopted them, they develop a stronger sense of identity and begin to feel moored to their past. Carter fleshes out Flora and Julian’s story with dynamic side characters, particularly the adults, who, for all their patient understanding, still realistically make mistakes. Though some of the siblings’ homes were awful, the loving ones demonstrate that, regardless of what a family looks like—and there’s not a single “traditional” family to be found here—love can make all the difference. This stunning portrayal of the circuitous path of trauma and healing teems with compassion, empathy, and the triumph of resilience. - Copyright 2017 Booklist.

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