Review: Far from the Tree by Robin Benway

Far from the Tree by Robin Benway

Series: No

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary

Release Date: October 3, 2017

Format: eARC

Source: Edelweiss/Harper Teen

Find it here: GoodReads | Amazon

A moving contemporary novel about three adopted siblings who find each other at just the right moment, by acclaimed YA vet Robin Benway.

Being the middle child has its ups and downs.

But for Grace, an only child who was adopted at birth, discovering that she is a middle child is a different ride altogether. After putting her own baby up for adoption, she goes looking for her biological family, including—

Maya, her loudmouthed younger bio sister, who has a lot to say about their newfound family ties. Having grown up the snarky brunette in a house full of chipper redheads, she’s quick to search for traces of herself among these not-quite-strangers. And when her adopted family’s long-buried problems begin to explode to the surface, Maya can’t help but wonder where exactly it is that she belongs.

And Joaquin, their stoic older bio brother, who has no interest in bonding over their shared biological mother. After seventeen years in the foster care system, he’s learned that there are no heroes, and secrets and fears are best kept close to the vest, where they can’t hurt anyone but him.

Robin Benway’s beautiful interweaving story of three very different teenagers connected by blood explores the meaning of family in all its forms—how to find it, how to keep it, and how to love it.


Do you ever finish a book and think: Wow, nothing I can say will possibly do this justice? Yeah, that’s how I feel about Far from the Tree. This turned out to be an incredibly moving read for me, not because I have first-hand experience with most of the themes covered here (adoption, teen pregnancy, foster care, alcoholism, racism), but because Robin Benway is a genius at telling a story that elicits an emotional response.


A pregnancy and subsequent adoption prompts sixteen year old Grace to search for her birth mother. What she doesn’t expect is the revelation that she has two siblings. The coming together of Grace, Maya and Joaquin changes their lives in ways they couldn’t have imagined. Grace keeps the birth of her daughter a secret from her new siblings while dealing with loneliness, sadness and guilt. Maya often feels like a stranger in her own home which is made even more difficult when home is no longer a safe haven. And Joaquin has grown up in the foster care system, bouncing from one home to another, feeling unloved and unworthy. 


I loved these characters. They felt completely realistic – their every mood and emotion – and that sucked me right into their lives. There was so much detail Benway added (like Grace referring to her baby as Peach, because that’s the size she was when Grace discovered she was pregnant) that added such realism to the story. Grace was such a likable girl. A girl who went from having a boyfriend and friends to losing all of it after her pregnancy. She was lonely and depressed and mourned not only the loss of her daughter but also the loss of the life she used to have (her return to school after giving birth was so painful that I just ached for her).

“Is it okay that I said that?” Joaquin asked, glancing over at Grace.

She frowned. “Said what?”

“You know. I called you my sister.”

The edges of Grace’s mouth trembled even as she started to smile. “That’s fine,” she said. “That’s what I am, right?”

On his other side, Maya rested her head on his shoulder. “Me, too,” she said quietly.

Looking so different from her parents and her sister was just another reminder that Maya was adopted. (Not to mention the books her parents had on raising an adopted child, even though they had no similar books for their biological child.) Her parents are fighting all the time and she’s finding empty wine bottles that her mother hides. She escapes her house every chance she can get to spend time with her girlfriend, but even with Shay she doesn’t share what’s going on at home and how she’s truly feeling. Maya could have such a prickly exterior that it was sometimes hard for me to connect with her and empathize with her as fully as I did with the Grace and Joaquin. She was falling apart inside, but was determined to put up a tough exterior.

“You think they want to meet me?”

Linda paused. “I’m pretty sure that when someone emails you asking to meet them, that’s a good sign.”

Joaquin just shook his head. “No, I mean, like… meet me.”

Linda paused again, but there was a gentleness between her words. “I think lots of people want to meet you, kiddo,” she said, then put a warm hand on his shoulder. “You just don’t know it yet.”


And then there’s Joaquin – who was never adopted and lived his life in the foster care system. Despite being with foster parents Mark and Linda for the past two years, people he truly cares for, his past doesn’t allow him to accept their love or believe that he truly has a home. Experience has taught him that he could be sent away at any time and he refuses any attachments. It was Joaquin that captured my heart and had me wanting to wrap him up, take away all the hurt and convince him he had so much to offer and was worth of love. My heart broke again and again for this sweet boy that had gone far too long without feeling stability and love and hope.



Far from the Tree grabbed me by the heart and didn’t let go. Benway created complex, multi-layered characters dealing with real-life situations and I was riveted by their journey, individually and together. I feel like I cried my way through half the book (usually at Joaquin’s chapters), sometimes with sadness and heartache but also with joy and hope. Grace and Maya and Joaquin came alive for me and I finished their story feeling so happy that I’d met them. 


Note: I received an advance copy of this title from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way changes my opinion of the book or the content of this review.


4.5/5 STARS

28 comments

  1. Oh this sounds awesome!! I have this coming up so I am so happy to hear you loved it. Great review!!

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    1. I hope you'll love it as much as I did, Grace!

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  2. aww man it seems everyone is loving this, I love your review, it was fun :D I think this book has a lot packed into it but I am glad the author pulled it off

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    1. It did cover a lot of issues but it never felt too much or like the issues took over the story.

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  3. Oh wow, this sounds like an emotional one and I must read it. I actually know various people in my life who were adopted or in foster care. I haven't personally experienced it, but I imagine it really affects you whether you're adopted or not.

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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    1. I hope you'll love it if you decide to give it a try, Lauren. It definitely made an impact on me!

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  4. No... crying?! I hate to cry! However, you have me so curious. I may have to suck it up and try it. *buys case of tissues*

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    1. LOL Well, I cry over fictional characters *very* easily so maybe you wouldn't cry. But have those tissues ready just in case... :)

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  5. I am like feeling feels from your review. Seriously, my eyes are shiny. I have Emmy and Oliver, and should get on that soon, because Fenway sounds like someone who writes books this girl will like. Lovely review!

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    1. Thanks Sam. Emmy & Oliver was just precious but this one... oh my heart. I really think you would love it.

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  6. I know exactly what you're saying about not feeling you have the proper words to describe your feelings about a book but for not having the words, you did an incredible job of conveying your emotions ;) and you've convinced me I need to give Benway a try. This sounds like an amazing read with character development and the evoking of emotions and you say Benway is talented at both? Yeah, she's going on my tbr. :)

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    1. Brandee! I've missed you, lady! :)
      Benway definitely pulled me in and made me care about these characters. Next time you're in the mood for some YA, I definitely recommend this one.

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  7. Oh this sounds SO good. Thanks for sharing. Anyway, I love your new layout. GORGEOUS! 😁❤️😍

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    1. Thanks Geybie! I loved this one... in case you couldn't tell. :)
      And thanks for the compliment - it's been a couple months but I'm still totally loving the new look.

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  8. OH my gosh this sounds so amazing!! I love that feeling when you're just fangirling and unable to process coherent thoughts or do the book justice with words because you're so in love with the story. It sounds incredible. And those excerpts you've shared already made me feel emotional and intrigued.

    Lovely review, Tanya. Your feelings really came through vividly. I'm gonna look out for this book!

    Amy @ A Magical World Of Words

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    1. Thank you, Amy! :) I love those books that are so good that you're left wondering, "How do I convince everyone of this book's greatness?" LOL

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  9. This book somehow flew completely under my radar, and I'm so glad I found this post because it sounds like something I'd LOVE. I need to pick it up soon!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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    1. I hope you'll try it, Nicole - I think you will love it. And I'd love to read your thoughts on it. You always have such great insights.

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  10. I don't know why but this review made me happy. I could tell how much you loved it and you totally emoted it well. Makes me want to read just because of all those feels. Great review. :) ~Aleen

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    1. Aw, thanks so much, Aleen. It was kind of hard not to gush after reading this one. :)

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  11. Aww, I have secondhand feels. I definitely think this is something I'll check out when I'm in the mood for something emotional. Like, all the time. LOL!

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    1. It definitely hit me in the feels, Jazmen. I was home alone, reading in the bath, when I read the last two or three chapter and I sat there and ugly cried loudly. LOL So glad I was alone. That would be hard to explain. :)

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  12. Oh YAY, I am so glad that you loved this one! I agree, it was very emotionally powerful, no question. You made such a good point about feeling so drawn to it even though you personally can't relate, I agree completely. That is really the mark of an author doing a great job. Fabulous review, Tanya!

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    1. Totally agree, Shannon. The fact that Benway could engage me like that, even though I had no personal connection to the subject matter... wow. That's some good writing.

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  13. I rarely dabble in YA contemporaries but you made me one-click order this!

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    1. Wow!!! I'm kinda speechless at that. LOL I'm so excited that my review prompted you to get this one and I hope you'll love it every bit as much as I did!

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  14. wow you make this one sound so good Tanya! so emotional and all those topis ( alcoholism, racism, adoption, teen pregnancy!) and since the characters were so realistic! THIS IS A MUST! I just ordered it!

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    1. OMG I'm so glad you ordered this one!!! It does touch on a lot of topics but the story is never overwhelmed by them. So excited that you're getting this one and I hope you'll get to it soon!

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