Hello Book Lovers!
I’ve been fortunate enough to receive some digital eARCs from the School Library Journal Day of Dialogue for librarians and educators via NetGalley and download from the publishers. Below is my review for one of those books. Thank you to NetGalley and G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers for the eARC copy of this book. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by any publisher, author or outside influence.
Closer to Nowhere by Ellen Hopkins
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers on 6 October 2020
Genres: MG Realistic Fiction
Format: ARC eBook
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Synopsis: #1 New York Times bestselling author Ellen Hopkins’s poignant middle grade novel in verse about coming to terms with indelible truths of family and belonging.
For the most part, Hannah’s life is just how she wants it. She has two supportive parents, she’s popular at school, and she’s been killing it at gymnastics. But when her cousin Cal moves in with her family, everything changes. Cal tells half-truths and tall tales, pranks Hannah constantly, and seems to be the reason her parents are fighting more and more. Nothing is how it used to be. She knows that Cal went through a lot after his mom died and she is trying to be patient, but most days Hannah just wishes Cal never moved in.
For his part, Cal is trying his hardest to fit in, but not everyone is as appreciative of his unique sense of humor and storytelling gifts as he is. Humor and stories might be his defense mechanism, but if Cal doesn’t let his walls down soon, he might push away the very people who are trying their best to love him.
Told in verse from the alternating perspectives of Hannah and Cal, this is a story of two cousins who are more alike than they realize and the family they both want to save.
Closer to Nowhere by Ellen Hopkins is told in two points of view–that of Cal and his cousin Hannah. Cal and Hannah don’t get along, but through this novel you see as they both learn more about themselves and how to connect with each other.
While this novel focused a lot on Cal and Hannah’s development and relationship, family dynamics also played a huge role in this story. Seeing how Hannah’s parents interacted with each other as well as with Cal and Hannah and then seeing Cal’s flashbacks to his own family’s dynamics really shaped an overarching theme/story behind Cal and Hannah’s individual stories. I loved how this story showcased that not all families are perfect and that at the end of the day everyone is just trying to do the best they can and that love is such an important part of that.
With that said, Cal and Hannah are really what this story is about outside of family. We as the reader get an inside look into Cal and Hannah and we get to watch them grow, learn and connect. The story was told in such a way that made me feel we really got an intimate look into Cal and Hannah as characters and people. Both Cal and Hannah’s voices were created so well and I really think they were representative of the age group they are in. Hopkins’ is such a masterful writer that I’ve always been able to connect with her stories and this one was no different. She drew me into Cal and Hannah and I came out of the story better for it.
Cal and Hannah’s story took me on a roller coaster of emotions for sure, but their story is definitely an experience that needs to be told more often. As a reader we get to watch as Hannah learns empathy and understanding and then we get to watch Cal as he learns to connect with others and heal — find more of his “place” within his family. This a powerful thing to watch and I really think this is a great story to introduce to younger readers who may struggle to empathize with others or feel like they don’t belong as we get to see both of those points of views through Hannah and Cal.
Overall, I really loved reading this story and connecting with these characters. I wanted to hug Cal so many times and was so proud when Hannah began working through her thoughts and emotions and began to change the way she saw Cal. In the end this story isn’t just about two kids growing up, it’s about empathy and love and the power of both. It’s about family and connection and knowing that you might be different, but you still belong. Definitely pick this one up!
Have you read Closer to Nowhere? Have you read any other Ellen Hopkins books? What about books that touch on empathy and understanding? Let me know your thoughts below!