THE NAMES THEY GAVE US, by Emery Lord, Bloomsbury USA Childrens, May 16, 2017, Hardcover, $17.99 (young adult)
After reading the first chapter of Emery Lord’s The Names They Gave Us I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stick with the book. But I give every book at least 40 pages before giving up. Turns out I’m glad I kept reading.
The Names They Gave Us opens with Lucy Hansson attending prom. Things leading up to this point haven’t been great, but Lucy finally feels like things are going her way. Her mom’s in remission for cancer, Lucy has a perfect boyfriend, and soon she’ll be working at her childhood Bible camp on the lake with her parents.
Except things aren’t really going Lucy’s way. Her mom’s cancer comes back with a vengeance, and Lucy begins to question her faith. Then her perfect boyfriend turns out to be not-so-perfect and puts their relationship on “pause” for the summer. To add insult to injury, Lucy’s mom wants her to work across the lake from Bible camp as a counselor for troubled kids.
Wanting to please her mother, Lucy reluctantly agrees to the job change. But facing her own troubles are hard enough, and Lucy doesn’t know if she can handle those of vulnerable children, too. As Lucy starts to accept her new normal, she finds she’s not really as alone as she thought.
When The Names They Gave Us opens, Lucy feels very one dimensional. She lives very much in her own little world, and her “religiousness” comes across very strong. Lucy is a pastor’s daughter, so this is to be expected. However, as that’s not what I read books for, I found myself skimming through some of it. It’s almost as if we’re looking in and viewing the “perfect pastor’s daughter.”
Lucy becomes much more interesting following her mother’s revelation. She gets mad. She questions her faith. She questions her boyfriend. She questions her parents. She stops accepting things at face value and starts to dig. She transforms from a one-dimensional stereotype to a multifaceted human being. As you follow Lucy, her foundation becomes stronger and you want her to succeed.
Emery Lord’s writing is easy and inviting. Her words are well chosen and crafted into meaningful sentences where shock value has no place. Lucy and her supporting cast are imperfectly likeable (most of the time) and worth getting to know.
The Names They Gave Us does not end like you would expect. Though there’s one plot twist I thought was a little contrived, I fully appreciated the choices Emery made in those final chapters.
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