Published: May 16th, 2017 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens | Series: N/A | Length: 400 pages | Genre: YA contemporary | Source: I was provided a copy by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. | Possible Triggers: abuse*, teen pregnancy, suicide*, transphobia, cancer, parental death*
*these don’t happen during the course of the book, but are mentioned
Summary from Goodreads:
Lucy Hansson was ready for a perfect summer with her boyfriend, working at her childhood Bible camp on the lake. But when her mom’s cancer reappears, Lucy falters—in faith, in love, and in her ability to cope. When her boyfriend “pauses” their relationship and her summer job switches to a different camp—one for troubled kids—Lucy isn’t sure how much more she can handle. Attempting to accept a new normal, Lucy slowly regains footing among her vibrant, diverse coworkers, Sundays with her mom, and a crush on a fellow counselor. But when long-hidden family secrets emerge, can Lucy set aside her problems and discover what grace really means?
Why have I not read Emery Lord’s writing before?! I own two of her other books and yet this is the first time I’m actually reading something she’s written. Let me say, though, that will certainly be fixed very soon. After reading The Names They Gave Us, I have fallen in love with Emery Lord’s writing and will definitely be reading more by her.
I’ll admit that I was a little nervous that the religious aspects would ruin it for me. I’m an atheist and tend to get annoyed if books (or any other media) try to push religious beliefs. But I’m very happy to say that this ended up being a totally unnecessary fear. Lucy is religious, yes, and it does play a role in the book, but the book never felt “preachy” to me. None of the religious characters try to push their faith on other people which I really appreciated. I actually really enjoyed reading about Lucy’s faith and felt her questioning of it felt real and authentic.
As you might expect with a book that takes place at a camp for troubled kids, there are some tough subjects that come up. Off the top of my head, some of the topics that I remember coming up were abuse, suicide, transphobia, and parental death (I promise I’m not spoiling anything by mentioning these). I felt that all of these subjects were handled pretty well (although I’m not really the best person to talk about most of these issues). They aren’t done for shock value nor are they handled insensitively. They’re really just a part of these characters and help explain why some of them act the way they do.
This cast of characters is 100% what really made this book for me. All of the characters are so wonderful in their own ways. The other camp counselors are especially great, as they’re all so supportive of each other and of the campers. Lord really wrote some fantastic friendships in this. The characters are pretty diverse too. There are several POC in the main group as well as a trans girl. Racism doesn’t really become incorporated into the book, but transphobia is mentioned at times, but again, I didn’t notice any big issues with how it was handled (but like I mentioned, I’m not the best person to speak on that as I’m cis). There were some pretty funny little comments made, especially when Lucy first arrives at the camp and the others are trying to figure out what kind of person she is – is she judgmental? accepting? They aren’t really sure what to expect from her and seeing the characters try to figure her out was quite entertaining at times.
One thing that could have been improved is the way the whole “family secrets” thing was handled. It’s not that it was portrayed poorly, but it really didn’t come into play until the very end of the novel. Based on the blurb, I expected it to be more integrated into the story and so I was a little thrown off by how late in the book it actually comes up. I’ll also admit it’s pretty easy to figure out what the big secret is if you know to look for clues. Ultimately, though, I loved the story we got so much that I really didn’t care.
I cannot close out this review without mentioning how much I adored the romance between Lucy and a fellow counselor, Jones. I won’t go into too much detail because I don’t want to spoil anything for people who are planning on reading this, but man, were they adorable. I was smiling uncontrollably reading some of the scenes with them. They were just so freaking cute!! And extra bonus points because they’re an interracial couple.
I really can’t do justice to The Names They Gave Us in this review. This book will have you laughing in one chapter and crying the next and you’ll love every minute of it. It’s been awhile since I’ve so thoroughly enjoyed a book. If even a small part of this book has you interested, you must give it a try because chances are you’ll really end up enjoying it.
Thank you to Bloomsbury Childrens for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Please note all quotes are taken from an ARC and may differ from the final version.