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Amanda Reviews… Other Words for Home

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga

Published: 2019

Age Range: 8-12

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Awards: 2019 Newbery Honor

Amanda (Piper’s human) read Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga and this is what she thought…

This book tells the story of a young girl, Jude, and her mother who move to America, leaving her brother and father behind in war torn Syria. She learns that you can call more than one place “home” as she adjusts to her new normal. I typically do not go for realistic fiction books, but I wanted to read this one in particular because it was the 2019 Newbery Honor book. Newbery Awards are for books with amazing stories, so I figured it had to be good. Logical right?

The narration makes you feel like you are right there in the story allowing you to feel all the same emotions the characters feel. You feel happy when Jude feels happy, sad when she feels sad, and scared when she feels scared. My favorite scene is probably not one many others would immediately pick. At one point in the book there is an act of domestic terror, and Jude starts to notice other people looking at her differently. When her friend Layla, who is an Arab-American, experiences a personal attack she fights with Jude who still doesn’t understand that they will always be considered “different.” Because of these new experiences Jude goes above and beyond to try and change others’ perceptions. Those who may look, or act, differently are not any less American than they are. Her bravery through all of it is inspiring.

I was disappointed how abrupt the ending was in Other Words for Home. I like what was happening when it ended, and I like the message that it was sending, but I really feel like it should have been wrapped up a little bit nicer. I wasn’t expecting a pretty little bow given the heaviness of the topic, but I felt that it needed just a little bit more to top it off.

The main theme is a mix of growing up in the face of adversity with a little bit of finding yourself mixed in. While I cannot say that it 100% achieves the theme, because I have not had to face half the challenges that Jude, her family, and her friends had to face, I imagine that it is pretty accurate. You see people walk down the street “keeping an eye” on someone who looks different. You hear people yell at non-English speakers to speak English. Just because I have not personally experienced it doesn’t mean it goes unnoticed. Warga was able to write about this topic in a very graceful, and personal way. In the beginning of the story Jude is very similar to how my friends and I behaved at 10 years old. Throughout the story there are small changes in Jude as she grows up, takes care of her mother, starts a new school, as well as many other things that I don’t want to spoil. She starts to figure out who she wants to be rather than what others think she should become. By the end of the story she has found her voice and has a solid perception of her current self.

Who would you recommend this book to?

I would recommend this book to someone who likes realistic fiction probably on the higher end of the “middle grade” spectrum. This is definitely a female centric book, so I wouldn’t suggest it for anyone who is not down for girl problems and girl drama. It is also a novel in verse (happiest surprise for me) which tends to hit a specific type of reader. You can’t judge a book by its cover, but I was drawn to Other Words for Home because of its cover art. I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about this book because of its genre, but I was pleasantly surprised. I’m really glad that I gave it a chance. It was definitely worth it – 10 out of 10 would recommend!

Check out the digital title on Overdrive/Libby

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