You know those books that warm your heart and seem to fill you up to the brim with something you didn’t know you were missing? Yes or no, What I Carry by Jennifer Longo is one of those books. There were some things that kept it from a 4-star rating, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
If there’s one thing Muiriel has learned from a lifetime spent in foster care, it is to pack light. No unnecessary items, no excessive toiletries, and certainly no human emotional bonds. Muir only has one year left before she finally ages out of the system, and she’s determined to make it out unnoticed and unscathed. But then she meets her last foster parent, Francine. And Kira, who wants to be her friend. And Sean, whom Muir can’t seem to function around. And suddenly, Muir doesn’t know if she really wants to leave.
No kid is in foster care because of something we did. That’s not how it works. And adults are solely responsible for the sorry state foster care is in. Until everyone understands and admits this, nothing will ever change for us.
Abby the Bookworm
What I Carry is a remarkable and eye-opening story about youth in foster care. I loved learning about what children and teens go through in foster care and even more so after learning that the author based her story on the actual experiences of people who have been in foster care. I got extremely mad at the — pardon me — GARBAGE foster parents who treated Muir and the other foster kids as deficient and there to use and discard. Learning so much about John Muir was another enlightening experience.
Muiriel’s walls and how she shut everyone out frustrated me to the moon and back. But when the walls finally broke down and she opened up, I started crying, and let me tell you, it is HARD to get catch me off guard crying during a book. The writing was beautiful, and when I finally caught on to the significance of the title, I felt like a genius. It made the writing even more irresistible in my opinion.
Moving onto the negatives. I won’t deny that Sean, Francine, and Kira were all amazing in their own separate ways (honestly, they were a bit too perfect), but I found the whole situation a bit unrealistic? The fact that this all coincidentally happens in Muiriel’s last year, at the same time, within days? I found it hard to buy. The antagonists all seemed like exaggerated caricatures as well.
While watching Muir’s walls break down was emotional and beautifully done, I was SO FRUSTRATED. The big reveal about why Muir doesn’t want to get adopted only happens in the last few chapters of the book, and this just gave me more time to get madder and madder at Muir. It would have been nicer if the reveal came a bit sooner. For my sake and Muir’s.
One more thing: Muir introduces characters by mentioning their race. There was virtually no point — almost everyone in the book is white. “Small white lady.” “A white lady with graying dark hair.” “White, with a long gray braid.” I only recall two non-white characters from the entire book. It annoyed me to no end while I was reading.
In summary: Muir’s character arc was wonderfully done, but the side characters and minor pet peeves in the writing lowered this to a 3.5.
Abby the Christian Bookworm: GOODNESS
The foster parents. Unbelievable. They — and the people they are based on — need more goodness. The foster kids are NOT there to be used and thrown away. Getting adopted is not a privilege or something that children need to be kneeling down in gratitude for. It is something that they DESERVE; caring for them and loving them is something the parents signed up for. NO ONE has the right to discard and blame children for something they did not do. Do they seriously have such a high opinion of themselves? Again, unbelievable to think that these characters are based on actual people.
What do you think? Have you read What I Carry? Is it on your TBR?