With the advent of smartphones, we document everything. Every big or little moment in our lives is captured in an instant. So what if you looked back at your baby album and noticed a gap — almost two years gone missing? That’s the premise behind Paula Garner’s Relative Strangers.
Jules is in the midst of her senior year, and as part of the yearbook staff, she has to bring in a photo of her as a baby to be included in the book. But when Jules asks her mom for one, she keeps putting her off. Finally, Jules takes matters into her own hands and looks for herself. What she finds instead is her own foster care paperwork.
After confronting her mother, Jules finds out she lived most of her first two years with another family. It’s an earth-shattering discovery for a girl who’s never known her father or really understood her ex-addict mother.
Feeling betrayed and adrift, Jules works with the simplest of clues to piece together her past. Surprisingly, she’s not alone in wanting to reconnect. The best and most-promising clue comes from a foster brother (Luke) who never wanted Jules to leave in the first place. In fact, the now-adult Luke and his parents desperately want to see Jules again.
As much as Jules wants to seamlessly reintegrate with her long lost family, things don’t go as planned. Jules falls head over heals for her foster brother who is everything she wants in a boyfriend. Soon, Jules finds herself at odds with everyone who’s ever loved her.
Relative Strangers is not a romance. This is a bonus for me, since not every teenager is in the midst of a relationship. As Jules’ crush on Luke began to develop, I started to dread the two of them entering a relationship. *Spoiler* It would have been easy for Garner to do. Instead she took the harder and infinitely more interesting path.
Jules is a likeable character whose flaws — horrible self worth — and quirks — the ability to make almost any dish out of top ramen — make you want her to succeed. The supporting characters are also endearing. And I was particularly pleased that Garner included enough back story on Jules’ mom to understand where she was coming from.
Relative Strangers starts out well and quickly becomes a page-turner. The pacing gets a little slow toward the middle, but picks up again later on. Because of mature themes — drug use, drinking, some profanity — I recommend Relative Strangers for more mature young adults, ages 14 and up.
Visit the other stops on the Relative Strangers blog tour:
April 10: Chelsea Palmer Book Reviews, Recommendations & Hauls
April 11: Bound to Be Bookish
April 12: YA Bibliophile
April 13: Swoony Boys