A Long Way from Home
by Laura Schaefer
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Pub Date 04 Oct 2022 | Archive Date 31 Oct 2022
Lerner Publishing Group, Carolrhoda Books ®
"Funny, fact-filled, and philosophical. This is an inspiring story for any kid who has been forced to move—to a new school, a new state, or a new point on the space-time continuum."—Edward Bloor, author of Tangerine and Taken
"A blend of fantasy, science fiction, and coming-of-age...You won't want to miss this remarkable book." —Karen McQuestion, author of The Watchful Woods series
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 13 members
Thank you to NetGalley for providing the eARC edition of A Long Way from Home in return for a fair and honest review!
Content Warnings: Dystopic themes (pollution, natural disasters, poverty, climate change, etc.), Brief mentions of depression, Regular mentions of anxiety and coping methods, Animal Pregnancy/Birth
**Disclaimer: This list may/may not include all content warnings for A Long Way from Home. However, any warnings listed are all very mild and handled tactfully given it is a Young Reader/Middle Grade book.
So! I have completed my first review of a Young Reader/Middle Grade books, and I'm very happy that it was this one that I chose first. A lot of people don't give younger books enough credit, since their stories can be written just as well and with as much emotional impact and influence as an adult novel can. The only difference is that they are written in a way that is easy to understand and comprehend, and usually, the ending is happy. Sometimes we need a happy ending in life, and if we can find it through a book, I think that's a wonderful thing.
To start, the book gives me some amazing Meet the Robinson's vibes with the time travel, the comparison of the present and the future, the wanting to abandon the old life for the new, how endless issues have been solved, etc. As that is one of my favorite movies, I was very happy to see the parallels between the two, even if they weren't connected at all.
Abby is a relatable character, given that she is twelve years old. Some things that kids do at twelve years old are cringy, and that's just how it is. Tweens using slang such as "bae" may not be as common now, but I'm also long from 7th grade, so maybe it's still a thing. For someone who WAS in 7th grade when that type of speech was used on the daily, it hit a weird little nugget of familiarity.
I think her frustration with her mother is understanding. Parents who mean well can often come across as overbearing and insufferable, and it's easy to agree with Abby that her mom does need to lay off sometimes. Positivity is always a good thing, but in endless amounts, it can be suffocating since, like Abby says in the book, "she never lets me say anything negative." Feeling like you're forced to feel only one thing can be detrimental to someone's mental health, especially when they cannot uphold those expectations, and that can lead into fear of disappointing people.
I thought all the characters were lovely, and Bix made me laugh out loud numerous times. The idea of a 4th grade, the equivalent of roughly 9 years old, talking in such blunt, objective, and scientific ways that were more advanced than grown scientists, was absolutely hilarious to me. Adam was sweet and charming, Olivia a comforting presence even if her role was small.
Julianna was interesting for me. Like Abby, I would've been immediately overwhelmed with someone like her being my school mentor. To see that obvious discomfort was a nice nod to the introverts in the world who don't handle such bubbly personalities. I like Nora and her air of mystery and her casual aloofness. It was relatable to my own personality, with a general air of neutral aloofness that can be tapped into with some gentle "persistence."
The writing was well done and easy to read. It was easy to follow along, and I really enjoyed it for what it was. If there was any content in the book that I would flag, it was all very mild and brief to keep in time with the age range of the book.
I just liked it genuinely as it stands. It was a good read, and I look forward to grabbing this one from the shelves as well!
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus
Abby is not thrilled when her mother gets a job with Space Now in Florida. She's worried enough about everything in her life, especially climate change and the general state of the world, and she's not looking forward to starting a new school and having to figure out a new community, even though she is a little curious about meeting her mother's aunt Nora who lives in the area and was also a brilliant scientist. Abby's been working on her anxiety, and has some coping skills that she uses, but sometimes it's not enough. She's especially not thrilled about having a Where Everyone Belongs mentor, Juliana. She'd rather just fly under the radar at school, and doom scroll once she gets home. A couple of things stop her from doing this; she meets two boys at a local fast food restaurant who seem very out of place. Adam and Bix tell her that they are a long way from home and looking for Adam's twin sister Vanessa (or V, as she likes to be called), and that they need a place to stay while they are waiting for her. Luckily, Abby's father has an enclosed boat docked nearby, and he's too busy fixing up their house to spend much time at it. The boys' story gets more and more interesting; they claim to be from 250 years in the future! After experiencin their world through a piece of their technology, Abby decides that the future looks much better than the present, and she's ready to leave everything behind to join them once they find V. She also gets drawn in to Juliana's mother's dog business, and finds that she likes hanging out with Juliana and her family. She also approaches Nora, and the older woman grudgingly visits with her, even though she is not on good terms with Abby's mother. As the Space Now Athena Heavy project approaches its deadline, and Abby's mother is involved in getting ready for its launch, Abby steps out of her own comfort zone to help Adam and Bix. It doesn't hurt that she really likes Adam and is looking forward to her new life in the 23rd century. She keeps getting weird messages on the refurbished smart phone that her father has gotten her, and these start to have some meaning when Adam and Bix's quest isn't going well. The Space Now launch runs into trouble, and Abby's mom and her aunt have to come to an understanding when they all need to help Adam and Bix. Will Abby get to pursue her dream of living in a utopian future, or will she find that Florida in the present day is where she needs to be?
Strengths: Many of my students will see themselves in Abby, since everyone seems to be anxious about everything these days. I absolutely loved Nora's explanation of anxiety-- it's something that's part of the human package, like opposable thumbs. We all have to deal with it from time to time. Abby does grow during the book; her life doesn't become perfect, but she gains some perspective, and that is such a crucial realization for middle grade readers. Very well done. I was sucked right in to Adam and Bix's story and was completely happy to suspend any disbelief. Perhaps the fact that Abby's mother and great aunt were involved in the space program made the science fiction element seem more realistic, but this struck me as exactly the kind of science fiction book that readers who aren't exactly fans of the genre will be more likely to pick up, while readers who are sure that they could travel to the future will be equally enthralled! This was a good spin on a moving tale as well; Abby is able to make friends and settle in to her new environment even though it was very different. I was also a big fan of the message that when things look bleak, sometimes it helps to do one small thing, and I loved the depiction of women in a demanding field of science, especially contrasting the aunt and mother's experiences a number of years apart. There's even a nicely romantic scene at the end that rounds things out nicely. Looking forward to handing this to students.
Weaknesses: The cover could be better, although it did make me think about Danziger's 1986 This Place Has No Atmosphere!
What I really think: Think of this as a magical realism type of science fiction; based enough in the real world to make sense to readers who have trouble getting their minds around elaborate world building. Also a great choice for readers who want to investigate current ecological topics in books like Dimopoulos' Turn the Tide, Guillory's Nowhere Better Than Here, Cartaya's The Last Beekeeper or Rosenberg's One Small Hop.
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