Saturday, March 24, 2018

Review: Relative Strangers by Paula Garner

Relative StrangersTitle: Relative Strangers
Author:  Paula Garner
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publishing Date: April 10th, 2018
Pages: 368
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction 
Series:  Stand Alone
Source: ARC
Why is there a gap in Jules’s baby album? A wry and poignant coming-of-age novel about finding the truth in lies, salvaging hope in heartbreak, and making peace with missing pieces.

Eighteen-year-old Jules has always wished for a close-knit family. She never knew her father, and her ex-addict mother has always seemed more interested in artistic endeavors than in bonding with her only daughter. Jules’s life and future look as flat and unchanging as her small Illinois town. Then a simple quest to find a baby picture for the senior yearbook leads to an earth-shattering discovery: for most of the first two years of her life, Jules lived in foster care. Reeling from feelings of betrayal and with only the flimsiest of clues, Jules sets out to learn the truth about her past. What she finds is a wonderful family who loved her as their own and hoped to adopt her — including a now-adult foster brother who is overjoyed to see his sister again. But as her feelings for him spiral into a devastating, catastrophic crush — and the divide between Jules and her mother widens — Jules finds herself on the brink of losing everything.

I picked this book up for review without know really anything about. It looked pretty, sounded heart warming with a littel bit of family drama. I figured why not. I enjoyed this book greatly. It was cute and sweet. Heartwarming. I enjoyed the characters and the story. 

Jules needs a baby picture for her senior year book. After her mother takes forever in getting her one she decides to look for one herself, only to find there are no pictures from shortly after she was born until she was about 2 years. What she finds is her mother was hiding a secret of her past from Jules and now Jules is apart of a whole new world and a past of lies. Her mother did know who her father was, she was in foster care, and there are people out there that love her other than her mother. This discovery leads Jules to explore herself, what family really means, and forgiveness. 

I enjoyed this book. It was full of some very cute moments, great friendships, secrets, drama, family, moments of self discovery and so much more. There were a few things I didn't feel or understand but for the most part it was cute and fun. I expected a little on the deeper side I think and got more light, but there was some deep issues that were explored. I enjoyed how these issues didn't drown the book. they were added in to explore but the book, for the most  part, stayed light. 

What I loved about the book, which would be in any realistic fiction book I read and enjoy, is the relationship dynamics. The relationship between Jules and her mother, Jules and her best friends, Jules and a co-worker, Jules and her best friends family, Jules and her foster family, Jules and her foster family. Jules life was filled with so many relationships and types of love and she didn't seem to see it. At moments I didn't really like Jules. She was a bit of a whiner. Not all the time and it did get better towards the end... But at times I felt she was a little poor me and didn't need to be. 

Jules and her mother weren't close but she never took the time to see what she really had, she liked to focus on the negative. I mean her mother is an ex addict, she became sober after a very hard time in her life I might add, to make sure she was the one to raise Jules. I think that says love and commitment. Jules mother wasn't a touchy feel share your emotions kind of person and for some reason, this equated to "you don't love me enough" I get it. I was a pretty needy child myself, but as an adult... I am a little over it. That wasn't a big part of the story though and Jules does grow. She is brought to light but more than one person that her life isn't that bad and she is clueless at times to what others are going through or have been through. 

The relationship she has with the different people in her life all teach her something important. I dont' want to go through every one because there is too many but I do want to mention the relationship with the foster family and the foster brother. 

The relationship Jules had with the foster family was sweet. I wish there was more of it in the book. They seemed so sweet in sincere. I think Jules sees what the other side of the fence is like. After years of wondering what it would be liked to be adored, she finds out. What I really liked was this did not make her see her mother negatively but in the end helped her repair her relationship with her mother. 

Jules and the foster brother. I didn't much like this relationship. I mean I think if they would have kept the feelings of falling for you out of it I would have loved it. Or if they would have kept it ,falling for you, on both sides I would have liked it. I didn't find it strange that she was falling for him. She hasn't seen him since she was two. so he wasn't  really like a brother to her. But he was a little bit older like 4 years older. She he remembers more of her. Its still been 16 years though. I feel like I would of been good either way. Romance or sibling relationship. I didn't like the drama of it. 

It didn't end all perfect and shiny and new in the end. It was a realistic ending with some happy and some tears and some things left unknown about the future. I was okay with the ending, but really it was all the feelings in between, the journey that made my heart glow. 

Really good feel good story.

Paula Garner
Paula Garner spends most of her time writing, reading, or making good things to eat. Her debut YA novel, Phantom Limbs, was published in 2016 by Candlewick Press and is a 2017 Illinois Reads selection for grades 9-12. Paula lives in the Chicago area with her family and a very bad cat. Find out more about Paula and her books at or follow her on Twitter at @paulajgarner.


  1. This doesn't seem like something I'd pick up on my own, but I'm so glad you really enjoyed this! YA needs more awesome family and friendship dynamics. <3 Lovely review, Jenn!

    - Aimee @ Aimee, Always

  2. I didn't know about this one I confess that but it looks like it is a good one!


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