Friday, June 07, 2019

All the Ways Home

Chapman, Elise. All the Ways Home
May 28th 2019 by Feiwel & Friends
E ARC from Netgalley

Kaede Hirano had a fairly comfortable life in Canada with his mother, but when she dies in a car accident which he thinks is his fault, he must live with his cold and distant grandfather. Luckily, he gets a message from his estranged father, who lives in Japan, that Kaede can visit him for several weeks. This works out well, since Kaede has created a lot of trouble for himself since his mother's death, and his school will only allow him to go on to the next grade if his summer project on the concept of "home" goes well. When Kaede arrives in Japan, he is met by his half brother, Shoma, who is much older and writes articles on the music scene for a magazine. Their father, a famous photographer, is off in a far flung region of Japan inaccessible to cell phones most of the time, so Kaede crashes with Shoma at his tiny apartment and does some sight seeing. He enjoys being with his brother, but longs for his father, as well as for his mother. In working on his school project, he has to reexamine his life, including an incident where he hurt his best friend, Jory. Eventually, wanting to see his father very badly, he sells Kaede guitar, buys a ticket, and heads out, only to find that both his father and Shoma are more complicated than he realized, and that family relationships aren't easy under the best of circumstances.
Strengths: Summer in another country, especially one to which the main character has cultural ties, always makes for a good story. The sights, food, and living conditions in Japan are all very different from Canada or the US, and were great fun to read about. Shoma is caring but somewhat detached, and has his own complicated personal history. Kaede is a very angry middle grade character who makes some progress toward a healthier outlook on life.
Weaknesses: This is on-trend with the death of the mother; regular readers know how very tired of this trope I am. While I know that real life lacks answers, it's nice if we get a few in fiction. The way that the father treats Kaede and Shoma is almost unbelievably bad, and it would have been nice to have more insight into this treatment. Also, I would have liked to see more exploration of Kaede's relationship with his grandfather. We have inklings that there is more to the man, but it's not explored.
What I really think: I loved the details of daily life in Japan, but this was soggily sad and rather message heavy. Will debate over the summer before my fall order goes in.

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