Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Review: The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord

Title: The Names They Gave Us

Author: Emery Lord

Rating: 5 Stars

The Names They Gave Us is tied with The Start of Me and You as my favorite novel by Emery Lord. I enjoyed Open Road Summer but When We Collided made me re-evaluate whether Lord and I had gone our separate ways. We haven't; not yet, at any rate.

Lord's latest follows Lucy, from the night of her junior prom when she finds out that her mother's breast cancer is back after two years, to her boyfriend "pausing" their relationship for the summer, just as Lucy goes off to be a counselor at Camp Daybreak, a far cry from the Camp Holyoke, the Christian camp where she typically spends her summers helping her pastor father. Lucy's voice is so fresh and honest. I couldn't help but be enamored by her from the beginning. Lord always writes characters I'd want to be friends with and Lucy was no exception. Even in the beginning of the novel, when Lucy simply wants to yell at the world--and especially at God--I knew The Names They Gave Us would be a gem.

Lucy's summer isn't easy, but the friendships she makes and the person she grows into are all wonderful. Camp Daybreak is a summer camp for children who have their own griefs to deal with, whether it be parental neglect, a teenage pregnancy, the death of a loved one, or something else entirely and, in that respect, The Names They Gave Us is an emotional novel. It isn't a cancer story, even though Lucy's mother's cancer is such a huge part of the book and especially a large part of Lucy and her mother's evolving relationship, not to mention family dynamic. It also isn't a religious novel, despite the fact that Lucy's father is a pastor.

Lucy has been raised in the Christian faith all her life but now, with the re-emergence of her mother's cancer she begins to doubt everything she knew. And, as someone who didn't grow up in the Christian faith, I can testify that I could still relate with Lucy. Her struggle to reconcile her experiences with her faith is a journey I think a lot of teens can relate to and Lord writes it with aplomb, balancing the religious and self-discovery aspects perfectly. I especially enjoyed that Lucy struggles to fit in because she's the pastor's daughter--people make assumptions about her personality, whether or not she drinks, her sexual limits, etc.--and watching Lucy grow and own who she is is such a rewarding part of this novel.

The Names They Gave Us features a trans best friend, people of color (and a love interest of color, actually!), discussions of privilege and sex, and is just all-round fantastic. It passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors, the friendships in this novel make me wish for the past, and this story made me tear up on more than one occasion. I don't know how Lord manages to write such consistently fantastic YA novels which simply breath life into the genre, but she does. And I sincerely hope she doesn't stop.


  1. Oh this sounds interesting and you have put her on my must read list. The fact that it has diversity in it and passes the Bechdel Test really makes me want to read this one. Brilly review.

  2. I'm sure this would make me cry. My mom got cancer at 39 and then it came back when she was 42. She didn't survive. I can imagine I'd relate a lot of Lucy's feelings if the author got it right. Not sure I want to go through those feelings again. Wonderful review, Keertana! :)

  3. wow that's great to see you had such a great time and the cover is beautiful. I don't think I knew about it but I would love to try!

  4. The Start of Me and You and The Names they Gave Us are two of Lord's books that I still need to pick up, so seeing that you enjoyed both tremendously, makes me super happy! As I didn't really like the last book that I read by Lord, but I think I was in the minority with that book! I shall definitely be bumping this book up my tbr! Gorgeous review as always! :)

  5. I am so happy you loved this! You and I have been reading twins so far with Lord. I loved The Start of Me and You (and liked her debut a lot). But after seriously loveing TSOMAY I preordered When We collided (which I rarely do) but was so disappointed I gave up on it about halfway through and donated it to a local high school library. So looking forward to this - I loved you review (you are eloquent and thorough and convincing as always!) and am hopeful I'll be finding a new fave book :)

  6. I have not read Emery Lord books and I quite want to right now. Would this book be a good start on reading her books?

  7. This is the second review I've seen for this that was 5 stars. I definitely need to read it now! Wonderful review. :D

  8. Really looking forward to reading this one just because I've not have much luck with her books lately. Hoping this will save the day. And it does sound good! Though, a bit heavier than her usual, yes?

  9. Such a heartfelt exploration of what it means to work thru a crisis of faith. Lucy is confronted with a series of things that a kid who grew up in Christian faith might have a certain initial reaction (medical marijuana & teen pregnancy to name a few), but she's challenged to see depth and nuance in her own circumstances, as well as in the circumstances of others. A fantastic cast of imperfect characters lift each other up during rough seasons in life with grace and humor. Keep the tissue box close.

  10. One of the best books I've read in a long time. It brought me back to teenage memories, so real, and touching. A well written masterpiece filled with emotion, overall a wonderful story.



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