Emily Out of Focus

Emily Out of Focus
Age Range
Release Date
May 07, 2019
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Twelve-year-old Emily is flying with her parents to China to adopt and bring home a new baby sister. She’s excited but nervous to travel across the world and very aware that this trip will change her entire life. And the cracks are already starting to show the moment they reach the hotel—her parents are all about the new baby and have no interest in exploring.

In the adoption trip group, Emily meets Katherine, a Chinese-American girl whose family has returned to China to adopt a second child. The girls eventually become friends and Katherine reveals a secret: she’s determined to find her birth mother, and she wants Emily’s help.

New country, new family, new responsibilities—it’s all a lot to handle, and Emily has never felt more alone.

Editor review

1 review
Traveling to China
Overall rating
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Emily and her parents go to China to bring home the little girl they are adopting. Emily isn't crazy about the idea, since she fears losing her parents and having a lot of her time taken up by her sister. She is interested in photojournalism, since her late grandmother was a rather prominent photographer, and she has brought her grandmother's camera with her. While staying at the hotel, she meets Katherine, who was herself adopted from China and who is hoping to find her mother while her family is back in her homeland adopting another baby. The two girls are bored and a bit angry, so armed with Katharine's quest, they take off together, despite the warnings of their parents to stay close to the hotel.
Good Points
Since Spitzer has been through this process, the details of traveling to China to finalize an adoption are first rate, I especially liked the detail in scenes like the one where Emily's family goes to a big box store to get baby supplies! Emily and Katharine's relationship is so typical of girls thrust together by circumstance or parental meddling, and middle school readers will definitely see the truth in it! The adventure is solid. This has a similar vibe to Peacock's Red Thread Sisters (2012) and will appeal to readers who have impending changes in their families about which they are not thrilled.

Emily nor Katherine start out as a bit unlikable, but their experiences make them grow up a bit, which was interesting to see.

This is a more adventurous yet tween-angsty version of Kadohata's Half a World Away and will appeal to readers who want to know more about foreign adoptions. Vickers's Paper Chains would be another good title; it deals with a girl adopted from a Russian orphanage.
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