Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Book Review: Heart With Joy by Steve Cushman

Heart with Joy

Heart with Joy by Steve Cushman
Publisher: John F. Blair
Publish Date: September 28, 2010
Paperback, 200 pages
Young Adult

My Review:
Why I read this: The author invited me to read and review his book and after reading the blurb I thought it sounded very interesting.  Plus I am a sucker for books set in my favorite state NC :)

How is the novel driven:  Character, this book is about Julian and how change in his life affects him and how he grows and changes.

My thoughts:  Julian is different, not in a strange way, but different from most teenagers you read about in young adult novels.  He's not a paranormal of any form nor is he shallow or self-centered, well any more than any typical small town teenager is.  Julian's parents however, have just separated, whether they officially call it that or not and his mom has left him with his dad.  This is devastating to Julian because he is a self-confessed Mama's Boy (though not in that way we typically associate with those words).  Julian was simply closest to his mother because his dad works a lot.  He and his mom did a lot of things together and when she leaves he feels a real void in his life.

Right after his mom leaves, his dad decides to run a marathon and out he goes everyday to run.  Julian turns to cooking and becomes quite a whiz in the kitchen.  Normal teen angst and anger towards his dad comes into play.  His dad isn't a bad person, just the person who has worked all these years and given up his dreams to build a life for his family.  He is the people-pleaser in this family.  Add in the older next-door neighbor that Julian isn't sure what to think of in the beginning but grows to have a friendship with and you have the makings for a wonderful young adult story.  One that I think is very realistic of this day and time.  Gone are the days of the dad running off and leaving the family.  Now it seems that just as often it is the mom.  Not throwing stones, just stating facts and this book is refreshing.

Julian is a good kid, with things to work through and with his dad and Mrs. Peters he is able to start doing this.  I loved watching him come to life in this book.  He is fascinating.  He is going through all the typical teenage things with the added separation of his parents and trying to build a relationship with the parent he wasn't closest to.  I enjoyed watching him and his dad change in this book.

The book moves along quickly and is told from Julian's point of view and that feels authentic.  Sometimes short chapters that jump around a bit because it's in Julian's head.  It didn't feel jerky though - it really just felt like I was Julian.  It's told mainly around Julian's home life, with some social life mixed in and that is another thing that makes this different.  Parents are invisible in a lot of young adult books, in this one, they are at the forefront.

I will definitely be hanging onto this one for when my sons are older.  Though I don't plan on leaving or separating, I think this novel has something for everyone in it.  And at the heart of the book is the fact that everyone should find something they love and enjoy and do that in some capacity.  This is what makes life beautiful.

My Rating: 4.75/5.0

About the Book:

In Heart With Joy, fifteen-year-old Julian Hale’s life is turned upside down when his mother suddenly moves from North Carolina to Venice, Florida under the pretense of running her parents’ motel and finishing the novel she has been working on for years.  While Julian has always been closer to his mother and wants to go with her, she tells him he has to stay with his father until the end of the school year.

Six weeks after his mother leaves, Julian’s father decides to run a marathon.  This surprises Julian because he has never seen his father exercise, but once he agrees to help him train the two develop the sort of close relationship they’ve never had before.  Also, with the help of an elderly neighbor, Julian learns that the most important thing in life is to follow your heart.  And Julian’s heart leads him to a passion for cooking and a young cashier at the local grocery store.  By the end of the novel, Julian is forced to choose between staying with his father and going to live with his mother.

Heart With Joy is an uplifting coming of age novel about cooking and bird watching, about writing and pottery, and about falling in love and the sacrifices we all make.  But ultimately, it’s about the importance of following your heart and trusting that it will take you where you need to go. 

About the Author:

Steve Cushman is the author of the novels Heart With Joy and Portisville, as well as Fracture City, a collection of short stories. His book reviews have appeared in the Greensboro News & Record, Winston-Salem Journal, and Our State magazine. Steve Currently works in the IT department at Moses Cone Memorial Hospital in Greensboro, North Carolina. 


FTC Information: I received this book from the author for review.  All opinions expressed are my own and they are my honest opinions, I am not compensated anything beyond receiving the book for review.  I have Amazon links on my review pages but I do not make any money from these because of NC laws.  I put them solely for people to check out the books on a retail site.