Forever, or a Long, Long Time

320p. HarperCollins. Mar. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062385680.
RedReviewStarGr 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.

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