Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on May 17th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Magical Realism, Middle Grade
THINGS FINLEY HART DOESN’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT
• Her parents, who are having problems. (But they pretend like they’re not.)• Being sent to her grandparents’ house for the summer.• Never having met said grandparents.• Her blue days—when life feels overwhelming, and it’s hard to keep her head up. (This happens a lot.)
Finley’s only retreat is the Everwood, a forest kingdom that exists in the pages of her notebook. Until she discovers the endless woods behind her grandparents’ house and realizes the Everwood is real--and holds more mysteries than she'd ever imagined, including a family of pirates that she isn’t allowed to talk to, trees covered in ash, and a strange old wizard living in a house made of bones.
With the help of her cousins, Finley sets out on a mission to save the dying Everwood and uncover its secrets. But as the mysteries pile up and the frightening sadness inside her grows, Finley realizes that if she wants to save the Everwood, she’ll first have to save herself.
Reality and fantasy collide in this powerful, heartfelt novel about family, depression, and the power of imagination.
Some Kind of Happiness is the story of Finley, she is eleven years old, has a vivid imagination and is dealing with some major things in her life. Anxiety, depression and the ever nearing truth that her parents are getting a divorce. Finley is spending the summer at her grandparents’ home so that her parents can have some time together to figure out how they will move on with their relationship. Finley has never met her dad’s side of the family because something very serious and secret severed their relationship a long time ago. Finley is not happy about being there, she doesn’t want to be among strangers and she is worried that they will discover her own secrets, her “blue days”. Thankfully, to combat her anxiety and to deal with the days when she feels like she is underwater unable to move or breath, Finley has the magical world of The Everwood. The Everwood lives inside the stories in Finley’s notebook, it is a special place she created to help her feel safe, and to express her herself freely. To Finley, The Everwood is only real upon the many pages of her stories, but once she starts to explore the woods behind her grandparents’ home, she realizes that The Everwood is very much real. Along with her cousins, they set off on an adventure that will forge friendships, uncover long-buried family secrets and help Finley face her fears.
I would first like to say that I LOVED Finley. She made my heartache with how broken she is and how unable to handle her feelings of anxiety and depression she is. Claire Legrand did a masterful job in capturing how torturous it can be for anyone to deal with depression and anxiety, especially someone as young as Finley. It is one of the reasons I applaud this book and feel like everyone should read it no matter their age. These are real issues that are affecting many people, young and old. Books that dealt with these types of mental illness where nowhere when I was growing up, and I wish they had been around. Young readers suffering from similar afflictions as Finley need stories like these to be written. They need to know that they are not alone, they are not being judged and that there are ways to obtain help. I loved that Finley made lists, I love that she loved words. I love that even though Finley was clearly struggling she still had fight in her and was able to create stunning stories. I was glad that Claire Legrand chose to have Finley coop with her afflictions by writing and using her imagination. In many cases of anxiety and depression, those suffering from these ailments don’t often cope in a healthy manner, so I am glad that Claire pushed a creative outlet as a way to help with coping.
One of the things I loved the most about Some Kind of Happiness is how the book is divided into chapters that take place in the whimsical Everwood, and then in Finley’s real world. I think these excerpts from Finley’s notebook about the Everwood are absolutely exquisite (they reminded me of when I was a child and spoke to the trees in my backyard). These passages also were a very clever way to let us know what was going on inside Finley’s mind. Though these passages seem like “make-believe” you come to find out that they are actually how Finley is describing the world around her and how she “sees” things.
I also enjoyed Finley’s family (mainly the cousins), it reminded me of how I grew up surrounded by my grandmother, aunts, and cousins. My family wasn’t as formal as the Harts, or as neat, but I do understand what it’s like to have a strong bond with my cousins growing up. I think it was very important for Finley to connect with her cousins and find acceptance among them. I think their support and love helped her in her journey to understanding herself and her feelings. The Bailey boys/pirates were also characters that I really enjoyed. They were wild and free and reminded me of the neighborhood kids my cousins and I would sometimes be allowed to play with (but that my grandmother never really trusted…just like Finley’s grandmother). The way the Baileys and her cousins willingly went along with Finley’s make-believe world of The Everwood really touched my heart. It’s tough to find friends that will “humor” you in what others might find eccentric and their desire to play along with Finley’s fantasy carved a little place in my heart for all of them.
The plot revolves around Finley and her desire to uncover the truth about why her grandparents and father have an estranged relationship with the help of her cousins and the Bailey boys. In getting closer and closer to the truth, Finley must come to terms with her own secrets and that she will have to face them head on. The writing really is lovely and though melancholy I think the tone is just right. Claire Legrand does an amazing job capturing the voice and thoughts of an eleven-year-old girl, and I love how “reality” and “fantasy” mixed together to create this story. Some Kind of Happiness is a bit sad and I cried at various parts but it is also full of hope and beautifully written. The book is marketed for middle graders but I would highly recommend it to readers of all ages.
Thank you, Simon & Schuster for approving my request to read Some Kind of Happiness in return for an honest review.
You can also read my recap of the middle-grade panel and book signing for Some Kind of Happiness at The Blue Bunny Books and Toy shop here.