WHERE THE HEART IS, by Jo Knowles, Candlewick Press


If home is where the heart is, what would happen if you lost it? Compassion and humor infuse the story of a family caught in financial crisis and a girl struggling to form her own identity.

It’s the first day of summer and Rachel’s thirteenth birthday. She can’t wait to head to the lake with her best friend, Micah! But as summer unfolds, every day seems to get more complicated. Her “fun” new job taking care of the neighbors’ farm animals quickly becomes a challenge, whether she’s being pecked by chickens or having to dodge a charging pig at feeding time. At home, her parents are more worried about money than usual, and their arguments over bills intensify. Fortunately, Rachel can count on Micah to help her cope with all the stress. But Micah seems to want their relationship to go beyond friendship, and though Rachel almost wishes for that, too, she can’t force herself to feel “that way” about him. In fact, she isn’t sure she can feel that way about any boy — or what that means.

approx. 304 pages

Out April 2nd, 2019


I received this book in exchange for my honest review.

This is a middle-grade read, for ages 10 to 14.

I get that being thirteen involves many coming of age dilemmas. Ask any thirteen years old. The world is coming to an end. Peer pressure is at its worse, the need to fit in crucial beyond belief, family dynamics are changing, the need to separate self from the ties of the family begins to grow causing inner struggles between family and independence; and, bodies and hormones are developing and raging. Add school, sexuality, changing friendships, jobs, high school just around the corner, and everything else including the kitchen sink, this is a crazy time for any kid.

Rachel is suffering it all.

This isn’t my first read by Jo Knowles. Like all her books, she isn’t afraid to take on the really hard issues facing kids today. Whereas she does this once again in this book, I can’t help but wonder if maybe she’s taken on too many issues, spreading herself thin covering them all instead of focusing really intensely on just a few.

Many middle-graders will relate to Rachel and all her quandaries, but they may also experience a bit of frustration over not having several of the issues Rachel faces delved into with more depth and resolution. Sometimes, too much of a  good thing is not necessarily great.  Knowles does a good job targeting issues teens struggle with, but not a great job in bringing all the issues to a satisfactory conclusion.

Still an enjoyable read with a few unanswered issues at the end, but overall a nice read, a quick one, and something I’m sure will be appreciated by ten to fourteen-year-olds.

I gave it:


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