So a big part of this book is religious. There is a family that has strong Christian views and the father of our protagonist is a pastor. However, I am not religious in any way, and I really didn’t mind the Christian aspect of the book, it didn’t seem in-your-face and forced upon you, it was just there as part of the character’s life and actually, it was quite interesting to read about how she tackled her life and her faith at the same time.
Lucy Hansson was ready for a perfect summer with her boyfriend, working at her childhood Bible camp on the lake. But when her mom’s cancer reappears, Lucy falters—in faith, in love, and in her ability to cope. When her boyfriend “pauses” their relationship and her summer job switches to a different camp—one for troubled kids—Lucy isn’t sure how much more she can handle. Attempting to accept a new normal, Lucy slowly regains footing among her vibrant, diverse coworkers, Sundays with her mom, and a crush on a fellow counsellor. But when long-hidden family secrets emerge, can Lucy set aside her problems and discover what grace really means?
First off, can I just rant for a little bit about how much of an idiot Lukas is? Who ‘pauses’ a relationship? If you didn’t want to be with Lucy, then just break up with her! Because ‘pausing’ a relationship is just crazy… (in my opinion) However, I do understand that he’s also been there for Lucy throughout a lot of hard times and I can see why Lucy would feel reserved over the ‘pause’. Lukas was her rock at times, her crutches and they were suddenly whipped away from underneath her. So she had to learn to stand on her own and rely on her own strength to get through the difficult times that she faced.
I absolutely loved all of the characters though! They were so amazing and supportive and just… real… They had problems, they were abrupt, they weren’t from perfect backgrounds, they were sarcastic, pushy, jealous, scared, loving… Everything that makes up being human, they were that. I just loved how this book had a friendship group in it that were there for each other, even when everything could be going wrong. They always made the effort to help one another out and I loved reading about that, as I think strong friendships need to be portrayed more in YA, and not the backstabbing drama that I usually read.
There was also quite a bit of diversity within The Names They Gave Us. Lord included a several POC in the book, a transgender main character, religious characters (and this is something that isn’t really explored in YA) and I think that it was brilliant to see this type of diversity within a book. However, I cannot state whether the representation was problematic or not as I am white, straight and cis.
“If you want partnership, you’ll find it. And in the meantime, you’re perfect all on your own.”
– Emery Lord, The Names They Gave Us
The only reason that this is four stars and not five is because of all of the family secrets. Don’t get me wrong, I loved finding out the secrets, but I felt like that whole part of the book was very rushed. Lord took her time with the first three-quarters of the book (and it was even slow-paced at times!) and then at the end, everything seemed to happen all at once with exposing the secrets. However, once that bit was out the way, it was pretty much the end of the book and oh my life… IT WAS AN AMAZING ENDING AND I NEED A SECOND BOOK! It was such cliffhanger and it left me screaming internally. How can you do this to us, Emery?! HOW?!
Another thing that I thought was amazing about this book was the character development that Lucy went through. At the beginning of the novel, she’s this naïve girl who’s scared to step even a toe out of line. She doesn’t live her life because she’s in constant fear about her Mom – which is 100% understandable because I would be the exact same! However, as the book progresses, so does Lucy. Being at Daybreak camp was the best possible thing for her. It gave her so many opportunities for growth and she made some amazing friends. Her character arc was just mind-blowing. Towards the end of the book, I was cheering her on because I just loved the person that she had become.
Overall, apart from the slow pace at the beginning and the mega-fast pace towards the end, this book was exceptionally good. This is the first book that I have read by Emery Lord. I actually have When We Collided on my bookshelf so that books has been bumped up my TBR significantly! Thank you, Emery Lord for a fantastic reading experience!
Side Note: Lucy’s last name is ‘Hansson’ and that’s amazing because it’s the same as mine. Guaranteed, mine is spelt ‘Hanson’ but still… WE HAVE THE SAME LAST NAME! WHOOO!
Warning: there are trigger warnings in this book for death, depression, self-harm, suicide, abuse
Disclaimer: this book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review