Half a World Away

Cynthia Kadohata
A kid who considers himself an epic fail discovers the transformative power of love when he deals with adoption in this novel from Cynthia Kadohata, winner of the Newbery Medal and the National Book Award.Eleven-year-old Jaden is adopted, and he knows he’s an “epic fail.’ That’s why his family is traveling to Kazakhstan to adopt a new baby—to replace him, he’s sure. And he gets it. He is incapable of stopping his stealing, hoarding, lighting fires, aggressive running, and obsession with electricity. He knows his parents love him, but he feels...nothing.But when they get to Kazakhstan, it turns out the infant they’ve travelled for has already been adopted, and literally within minutes are faced with having to choose from six other babies. While his parents agonize, Jaden is more interested in the toddlers. One, a little guy named Dimash, spies Jaden and barrels over to him every time he sees him. Jaden finds himself increasingly intrigued by and worried about Dimash. Already three years old and barely able to speak, Dimash will soon age out of the orphanage, and then his life will be as hopeless as Jaden feels now. For the first time in his life, Jaden actually feels something that isn’t pure blinding fury, and there’s no way to control it, or its power. From camels rooting through garbage like raccoons, to eagles being trained like hunting dogs, to streets that are more pothole than pavement, Half a World Away is Cynthia Kadohata’s latest spark of a novel.


Reviewed: 2018-12-06

I was drawn into the story by solid prose and the engaging story being woven. The family tensions between adult siblings, particularly from people of a certain economic status, felt too real. The protagonist, likewise, was believeable.

But then there was the whole "White Savior" story as the backdrop. Jaden gets whatever he needs because his adoptive parents are well-to-do. This aspect should not be overlooked, but then I did some reflection on that. I considered who I was reading this book for. Yes, of course, I read for enjoyment, but as an ESL teacher and as one looking to establish an ESL library, I need to consider my audience. While the typical Mexican is moreno (brown), there are many gueros (whites) among the likely clients of such a library. Also due to classism, high English ability and higher economic status also overlap. So many of the library's readers will be white and well-to-do. Perhaps it is less of an issue for them. People with resources need better role models too; Penni and Steve (the adoptive parents in the book) could serve in that way. As a social justice oriented teacher, I try to check my privilege.

The book shows a realistic view of the world. It addresses a variety of issues related to adoption, including adopting older and special-needs children. It would be a very positive addition for my emerging library.

Biblioteca Inglesa (English Library)
de Fortin de las Flores, Veracruz, Mexico


Item Posts
@Darci began #halfaworldaway... on 2019-07-21