Far From the Tree [Book Review]

December 22, 2017

Has your life been touched by adoption?

Some readers notice that this story feels similar to the NBC T.V. series This is Us…. and it is similar in its multi-layered sibling saga (from a teenage perspective) and especially a similar adoption theme. If you watch This is Us, you might remember in Season 1 how Randall describes his feelings growing up as an adopted child in a white family. These are similar feelings (as well as others) expressed by Joaquin, Grace, and Maya in Far From the Tree.

Far From the Tree by Robin Benway

Far From the Tree by Robin Benway (cover) Image: black text on a background of pinkish purple explosion of leaves

Genre/categories: YA Fiction, Social & Family Issues, Adoption, Siblings


Far From the Tree is a contemporary YA fiction novel in which three biological siblings (placed for adoption or foster care as babies in separate families) find their way to each other as teenagers and discover a deeper meaning of family. The story is complicated because Grace, one of the three siblings, has just placed her own baby up for adoption. In addition, Joaquin, another of the siblings has experienced trauma growing up in the foster care system. The author tenderly explores each of their stories including the mistrust, feelings of aloneness, and individual hurts and disappointments. Far From the Tree won the 2017 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.

Amazon Rating (December): Early Reviews: 4.6 Stars

My Thoughts: 

Adoption: If adoption is part of your history or adoption touches your family, this gripping and emotional story will captivate and wreck you in the best way! Tissues may be required! My personal connections to adoption with close friends and family cause me to connect with this story in a special way. Most notably, my husband is adopted and has experienced deep feelings of “aloneness” all his life. In addition, later in our adult lives, both my husband and I have established relationships with relatives (my husband’s sister and my cousin) whom we’ve been separated from all our lives as a result of adoption. In each case, the reunion was special and we’ve established close adult relationships with each other. #itsnevertoolatetoexpandourfamily  #drawawidercircle

My background with establishing our own relationships with family members who had been separated through the adoption process greatly impacted me as I read Far From the Tree and I was able to recognize and identify with certain feelings and fears from each of the three siblings.

A Favorite Read: Far From the Tree is definitely one of my favorite reads of the year. It is an engaging, heartwarming, and insightful story for the YA audience and for all adult readers as the author explores the powerful emotions of adoption from several perspectives. Because this is a YA genre, there are some F-bombs and some teenagery angst.

Themes: The author includes many themes and it can feel all over the place. I wished the author had remained more focused on the exploration of adoption, foster care, and family themes. Overall, though, readers will appreciate the excellent character development and relevant themes of adoption, fostering to adopt, reconciliation, healing, sibling bonds, family relationships, learning to trust, and family loyalty.

Recommended: Trust me! Put this on your “must-read” shelf if you love complicated family drama!

bike with training wheels

Shared with Joaquin as he learns to trust his foster parents:

“I know you don’t believe it now, I know you might not ever believe it, but Mark and Linda are like those training wheels, too. What you described? That’s what parents do. They catch you before you fall. That’s what family is.”

My Rating: 4 Stars


Far From the Tree

Far From the Tree Information Here

Meet the Author, Robin Benway

Robin Benway

Robin Benway is a National Book Award winner and New York Times bestselling author of six novels for young adults, including Audrey, Wait!, the AKA series, and Emmy & Oliver. Her books have received numerous awards and recognition, including a 2008 Blue Ribbon Award from the Bulletin for the Center of Children’s Books, 2009’s ALA Best Books for Young Adults, and 2014’s ALA Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults. In addition, her novels have received starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, and Publishers Weekly, and have been published in more than twenty countries. Her most recent title, Emmy & Oliver, was published in 2015 by Harper Teen, and was named one of the best books of summer by the Los Angeles Times, the Houston Chronicle, and Publishers Weekly. Her newest book, Far From the Tree, won the 2017 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature and was published by Harper Teen on October 3, 2017.

Robin grew up in Orange County, California, attended NYU, where she was the 1997 recipient of the Seth Barkas Prize for Creative Writing, and is a graduate of UCLA. She currently lives in Los Angeles, where she spends her time hanging out with her dog, Hudson, making coffee, and procrastinating on writing.

Let’s Discuss!

Tell me if you have an adoption story in your family.

I’d love to hear about your favorite reads of 2017 (mine are here).

What’s at the top of your TBR list for 2018? (my list of priority reads for 2018 is here) ….I’m adding Last Christmas in Paris to my TBR because of recent buzz!

Happy Reading Bookworms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text


What was your favorite read of 2017? Check out Novels & Nonfiction: My Top Ten Favorite Books I Read in 2017.

Here is another great review post featuring a wide selection of fiction and nonfiction:  Kendra Nicole: My World in Reviews: An End-of-Year Wrap-up and My Favorite Books of 2017.

Looking Ahead!

I have so many books I’m looking forward to reading in 2018. See this post. However, I think I’ll read Woman in Cabin 10 next week for my IRL book club January meeting. This isn’t my usual or preferred genre….so we’ll see how it goes!

Woman in Cabin 10

The Woman in Cabin 10 Information Here.

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For those celebrating Christmas,
Merry Christmas from Reading Ladies!

Merry Christmas


  1. […] My reservations are (1) the author’s use of quite a few f-bombs (I don’t understand why this language is so prevalent and almost mandatory in YA books….but I’m probably showing my age or highly sensitive nature here) and (2) the author throws too many themes in here in my opinion (divorce, alcoholism, sexual identity, racism, etc), and these themes (although important) are somewhat distracting from the adoption/unplanned pregnancy/foster care/meaning of family themes which are the focus of the book. Nevertheless, I highly enjoyed the overall read and found it exceptionally meaningful on a personal level and highly recommendable ….. Here’s a link to my full review.  […]

  2. I’m an adoptive mother, so books about adoption always reel me in! I was especially drawn to this one because my adopted daughter has bio half-siblings that I’m sure she’ll be curious about when she gets a little older. She’s also bi-racial growing up in a white family, so that theme also drew me in. Overall, I liked FAR FROM THE TREE but didn’t love it. I agree — there was A LOT going on, probably too much. I did like the “no family is perfect” theme because it’s SO true!


    • Thank you for stopping in! I really appreciate your perspective Susan! I think I appreciated most hearing the myriad of feelings adopted children can and might have….I image every child has a unique experience though! Some children might not be able to verbalize their feelings. What do you think about adopted children establishing connections with their biological roots? Did you watch This is Us and Randal’s experience in being kept from his bio dad and then meeting him as an adult? It’s true that no family is perfect but love and grace cover all that! Wishing you an abundance of both! God bless you for sharing your heart and life with your adopted daughter!

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