Faith In YA / REVIEW: The Names They Gave Us - Emery Lord

The Names They Gave Us - Emery Lord
Published by Bloomsbury on 1st June 2017.
Book depository purchase link.
My rating: 4/5

Faith is weird. When you think about it, faith is such a vague, flexible thing that can mean a different thing to every person. I know people who don't drink because of their faith, who have tattoos because of their faith. Some people even set off bombs because of their faith. That's what makes it such an interesting topic for YA, where often these kinds of books have a 'message' or something to learn from. Don't worry, The Names They Gave Us isn't a recruitment book for any type of religion. 

Lucy is looking forward to the summer (aren't we all?) and has a perfect all-American girl life. Boyfriend, check. Job, check. Quality time with her parents and mum who doubles as her BFF, check. But then, Lucy's mum's cancer returns and everything goes to crap. She volunteers as a counsellor at a summer camp for troubled kids, rather than the church camp she knows and loves. It challenges everything she thought her faith meant to her and her family, from pre-marital sex to how to deal with the great unknown of her future.

I grew up attending a Church of England school and found myself grappling with ideas of faith when I was younger than Lucy, asking all of the same questions. Mostly, how can you have faith when your mum has cancer? Why would a God do something like that to you and your family? But instead of being a nasty, ignorant bash at Christianity, or any religion, The Names They Gave Us, explores how faith doesn't have to mean following a rule book, or even following the same thing as everyone else. It can be personal. 

While I lost my religious faith, I found faith in the people around me. In knowing that friends and family can be kind, supportive and comforting and that kindness is key (sorry for the cheesy overload here). In the same way, Emery Lord transcends religious faith and applies the concept to everyone, no matter what  their beliefs.

Lucy's relationships with the other counsellors provided the diversity that brought this story to life. Anna in particular was an insightful and eye-opening character. I found myself exactly on the same page as Lucy. When she was surprised, so was I. When she didn't know what to say, neither did I. But, I felt I learnt a lot from their relationship and it gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling aka faith in humanity. 

Of course, how could I review this book without mentioning Jones? Jones - such a common surname - could be any guy. He's exactly what Lucy needs to show her that it's okay to be herself, even when it's not what she expected. She gets to experience his life and meet his family and I couldn't read those chapters fast enough because they were so damn good.

Whether you've read Emery Lord before or not - I strongly suggest you do - The Names They Gave Us is a versatile read and the faith slant was dealt with so well.

If anyone has any recommendations of other YA writers/novels that deal with faith, let me know!

Love, Jess

Thank you to Bloomsbury for my copy.

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