Book Review: Return to Me by Justina Chen

View from the window seat:
Rebecca Muir wants nothing more than to be an architect. She’s on her way to realizing her dreams at Columbia, a school three thousand miles away from her overbearing mother. Unfortunately, it’s also on the opposite coast from her boyfriend, Jackson. She’s shocked when her parents announce that the whole family will be moving to the East Coast for her dad’s job. She’s even more shocked when her father delivers devastating, world-shattering news. How can she move past such hurt and betrayal? How can her family heal? Rebecca has to discover what it is she really wants for her life.

I was surprised by how moving and engrossing I found this novel to be. Rebecca’s journey is one that I think anyone can relate to: figuring out where your life is headed and what you want to do. Rebecca has a rather unconventional dream: she wants to be an architect who designs and builds treehouses. What I admire so much about Reb is that when she finally realizes what her dream is, she doesn’t focus on all of the improbabilities that stand in the way of her dream. Instead, she takes her future into her own hands and pursues opportunities that will set her on the right path. She goes from being a passive girl who lets others’ expectations, especially those of her parents, guide her decisions to a girl who actively stands up for what she knows is right for her life.

Perhaps most surprising about this novel is that there’s a touch of the paranormal. The women in her family get premonitions and visions about the future. I wasn’t expecting this at all from the blurb, which made it sound like this novel was just a contemporary. I would say this is more of a magical realism book. I don’t think this addition made the emotions and the traumatic situations any less real.

This is not a usual YA book; it actually has more of an adult feel. Rebecca has a very mature voice (though, she is about to leave for college, so technically she’s an adult) for YA, and her transformation is much more mature than I would expect a teenager to go through. She learns a lot about forgiveness even in the face of extreme betrayal. She also handles her actions towards her parents in a very mature way.

Overall impression:
Return to MeĀ is a relatable story about pain, forgiveness, and discovery.

Rating:
7

Note: I received this ARC from the publisher at the 2012 ALA Annual Conference.

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