Half a World Away

 
4.5 (2)
 
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1958 1
Half a World Away
Age Range
10+
Release Date
September 02, 2014
ISBN
9781442412750
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A kid who considers himself an epic fail discovers the transformative power of love when he deals with adoption in this novel from Cynthia Kadohata, winner of the Newbery Medal and the National Book Award. Eleven-year-old Jaden is adopted, and he knows he’s an “epic fail.’ That’s why his family is traveling to Kazakhstan to adopt a new baby—to replace him, he’s sure. And he gets it. He is incapable of stopping his stealing, hoarding, lighting fires, aggressive running, and obsession with electricity. He knows his parents love him, but he feels...nothing. But when they get to Kazakhstan, it turns out the infant they’ve travelled for has already been adopted, and literally within minutes are faced with having to choose from six other babies. While his parents agonize, Jaden is more interested in the toddlers. One, a little guy named Dimash, spies Jaden and barrels over to him every time he sees him. Jaden finds himself increasingly intrigued by and worried about Dimash. Already three years old and barely able to speak, Dimash will soon age out of the orphanage, and then his life will be as hopeless as Jaden feels now. For the first time in his life, Jaden actually feels something that isn’t pure blinding fury, and there’s no way to control it, or its power. From camels rooting through garbage like raccoons, to eagles being trained like hunting dogs, to streets that are more pothole than pavement, Half a World Away is Cynthia Kadohata’s latest spark of a novel.

Editor reviews

2 reviews
International Adoption
Overall rating
 
4.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
Jaden has been adopted by a US family, but he was in an orphanage in Romania for so long that he has an attachment disorder and is not really happy with Penni and Steve, his adoptive parents. He hoards food and is fascinated with electricity, and even went through a phase where he liked to set things on fire. His parents have him in therapy, but he still just isn't comfortable. When Penni and Steve decide to adopt a baby from Kazakhstan, Jaden feels even more threatened. The family travels there only to find that the baby they thought they were getting has already been adopted, and the child they are shown instead does not seem to be bonding with them in the very same way that Jaden isn't bonding. Jaden, however, finds a toddler with whom he feels a connection, and he would like the family to adopt Dimash instead of Ramazan. Even though Jaden has stressed out the parents emotionally and financially, they decide to take both special needs children, and Jaden then feels like he might be able to connect with them a little.

I can't think of another book about adopting a baby from a foreign country from the point of view of a middle grade child, or another book about a middle grade child adopted from another country who is not settling in well. Kadohata is an effective writer, and I did get sucked into this. The descriptions of the process and of traveling to another country were especially interesting.
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A unique, must-read narrative about adoption
Overall rating
 
5.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
HALF A WORLD AWAY is a unique, wonderfully written narrative from the point of view of a very troubled boy. When Jaden's parents take him to Kazakhstan where they plan to adopt a new baby, many of his fears are brought to light. Will they now reject Jaden, just as his birth mother rejected him? Will the new baby get all the attention? Will his adopted parents even be able to pick out their own baby to adopt? Jaden has a lot to go through before his family can be completed and they can go home to the U.S.

The narrative is very well written and easy to follow. Jaden's thoughts are fascinating and captivating, and will keep young readers turning the pages. The tension between Jaden and his parents will keep adult readers wondering what's going to happen next. You'll feel like you're actually there, in the wilderness of Kazakhstan with Jaden, watching the world move by in front of your eyes as you try to cope with all the changes happening so very fast in his life.

What I loved:

The protagonist, Jaden. There were so many times while reading this book that I surprise-laughed, because of the sheer strangeness of this boy. He is so weird, so awkward, and kind of an awful person. There's a lot wrong with this boy's head, simply meaning that he has a lot of mental health and social issues. I am not an expert, and I'm not the author, so I won't be diagnosing Jaden. Regardless, Jaden has some issues, and he isn't shy about them. The author isn't shy about being up front with his flaws. You really get to see inside the head of a kid who is adopted and realize where a lot of his problems come from. I loved that.

Jaden's immediate attachment to Dimash. That's how kids make friends. There is just something that clicks in between them, and a connection is made. Jaden responded to that connection. It's possibly the only time he's ever done that with another kid, even though Dimash is much younger than him.

The ending. I won't spoil it for you, but I will say that it was everything I was hoping for, and more.

What I wanted more of:

Jaden at school. I wanted to see how he interacted, in real time, with his peers. I know the story isn't really about that, but I would have enjoyed at least a super short scene with Jaden in a classroom.

The verdict: Incredible. HALF A WORLD AWAY is a must-read for adoptive and foster parents everywhere, as well as for their kids. Teachers should read it. Social workers should read it. Siblings of adopted kids should read it. Highly recommended for everyone, especially boys ages 9-12.
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