Published by Bloomsbury Children’s.
Review by Kate Mullen.
The Names They Gave Us is a compelling book dealing with current issues, accompanied by the importance of faith. It focusses on the ‘perfect’ life of Lucy Hanson, a 17 year old pastor’s daughter. Lucy’s life appears to be without fault up until the night of her prom, when she discovers her mother has been re-diagnosed with cancer. Lucy’s life begins to fall apart. She becomes detached from her religion, not being able to comprehend why God has cursed her devoted family with cancer once again. To make matters worse, her just-as-perfect boyfriend witnesses her self-destructive outbreaks and decides that they should put a ‘pause’ on their relationship. Lucy plans to follow tradition and return to her family’s church camp over summer; however her mother has a very different plan for her. The plan includes attending the ‘hippie’ summer camp across the lake as a young counsellor.
This marks the start of Lucy’s new life; a life that is no longer two-dimensional and safe. It is the summer of new experiences, starting with her forming true friendships with the most unlikely of people. Unbeknown to Lucy on entering the summer camp, everyone there, including her teenage co-workers and the children, have been through some sort of trauma in their life. This allows Lucy to see how other people live, reassuring her that she is not alone in the difficult time she is going through. Lucy is about to embark on a summer that is full of monumental ups and downs, including a newfound romance with Jones, her charming co-worker. However, her new view on life is tarnished by her mother’s cancer, as she sees the woman she loves the most deteriorate week by week.
Emery Lord has created a book that causes her readers to go through every emotion possible. The first person narrative allows the reader to feel close to the protagonist Lucy, making them even more invested in the storyline. She allows the reader to relate to the many characters in The Names They Gave Us, as she tackles sensitive but current topics such as: grief, bullying, cancer, teenage pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse and being transgender. Although she includes these topics in her book, the main focus is on faith and religion. Ultimately, Emery Lord has produced a book that allows a wide audience to relate to it, whilst teaching strong moral lessons. She emphasises that everyone is different due to the environments they have lived in and the different life experiences they have had: yet this doesn’t make anyone more superior or inferior.
Overall, this book is a good read full of surprises and drama. My only criticism would be that the storyline revolves around the theme of religion; this could be considered as being overwhelming. However, the amount of religious references does reduce as the book continues and the pace quickens as a result which, in my opinion, makes The Names They Gave Us impossible to put down. I would recommend this book if someone is looking for an enriching, easy read.