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The Broken Branches

63p. Waldorf. Nov. 2018. pap. $16.95. ISBN 9781641368704.
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Gr 9 Up-With a clear Christian bent and an enthusiasm for genealogy, this book offers an earnest yet cursory exploration of family and identity. When Sarafina Garcia sets out to investigate her family history for a school project, she uncovers long-hidden and unsettling truths about her background. Meanwhile, a friend in need reappears in Sarafina's life, and as the two young women come to terms with revelations about their families' pasts, they learn lessons about faith and choosing family. Villareal's love of family histories, as well as her strong faith, is evident throughout the story from beginning to end. However, while some may connect with Sarafina's longing to know where she comes from, others may be disappointed by what feels like a stilted and sudden ending. Unfortunately, Villareal rushes plot and character development in this short novel. Her plot lines wrap up so quickly and neatly that the characters' growth feels inauthentic, especially considering the distressing nature of what some of the protagonists experience, such as teenage homelessness, the death of a parent, and implied rape. Though Villareal's work is a sincere portrayal of the complexity of family secrets and the shame that can come with them, it fails to capture the richness of emotions—both positive and negative—that readers will crave on such a journey of identity and self-discovery.
VERDICT An additional purchase.-Lauren Hathaway, University of British Columbia

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