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The Half Orphan's Handbook

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For fans of John Green and Emily X.R. Pan, The Half-Orphan's Handbook by Joan F. Smith is a coming-of-age story and an empathetic, authentic exploration of grief with a sharp sense of humor and a big heart. It’s been three months since Lila lost her father to suicide. Since then, she’s learned to protect herself from pain by following two unbreakable rules: 1. The only peopl For fans of John Green and Emily X.R. Pan, The Half-Orphan's Handbook by Joan F. Smith is a coming-of-age story and an empathetic, authentic exploration of grief with a sharp sense of humor and a big heart. It’s been three months since Lila lost her father to suicide. Since then, she’s learned to protect herself from pain by following two unbreakable rules: 1. The only people who can truly hurt you are the ones you love. Therefore, love no one. 2. Stay away from liars. Liars are the worst. But when Lila’s mother sends her to a summer-long grief camp, it’s suddenly harder for Lila to follow these rules. Potential new friends and an unexpected crush threaten to drag her back into life for the first time since her dad’s death. On top of everything, there’s more about what happened that Lila doesn’t know, and facing the truth about her family will be the hardest part of learning how a broken heart can love again.


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For fans of John Green and Emily X.R. Pan, The Half-Orphan's Handbook by Joan F. Smith is a coming-of-age story and an empathetic, authentic exploration of grief with a sharp sense of humor and a big heart. It’s been three months since Lila lost her father to suicide. Since then, she’s learned to protect herself from pain by following two unbreakable rules: 1. The only peopl For fans of John Green and Emily X.R. Pan, The Half-Orphan's Handbook by Joan F. Smith is a coming-of-age story and an empathetic, authentic exploration of grief with a sharp sense of humor and a big heart. It’s been three months since Lila lost her father to suicide. Since then, she’s learned to protect herself from pain by following two unbreakable rules: 1. The only people who can truly hurt you are the ones you love. Therefore, love no one. 2. Stay away from liars. Liars are the worst. But when Lila’s mother sends her to a summer-long grief camp, it’s suddenly harder for Lila to follow these rules. Potential new friends and an unexpected crush threaten to drag her back into life for the first time since her dad’s death. On top of everything, there’s more about what happened that Lila doesn’t know, and facing the truth about her family will be the hardest part of learning how a broken heart can love again.

30 review for The Half Orphan's Handbook

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Phillips

    My Author Mentor Match mentee. <3 This book is beautiful. You're not even ready. My Author Mentor Match mentee. <3 This book is beautiful. You're not even ready.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Laura Namey

    I was lucky to read an early copy of this book and it is a masterpiece. Beautiful characters face the true and tough realities of the world and life. Joan F. Smith gives teens a book that merges humor with grief and the tools to find hope while reconciling the unanswerable. Stunning.

  3. 4 out of 5

    cherelle (a bolt out of the book)

    consider my breath stolen || rating: 4 stars✨ *full review/blog tour to come: 26 April* The Half-Orphan’s Handbook is one of those books that nails the perfect balance between light-heartedness and cheer, and the sombre themes of grief, guilt and loss. The exploration into loss and acceptance was both sensitive and thought-provoking, the writing metaphorical, sprinkled with deep nuances I appreciated. The characters and their relationships were all so beautiful and heartfelt, and like friendships consider my breath stolen || rating: 4 stars✨ *full review/blog tour to come: 26 April* The Half-Orphan’s Handbook is one of those books that nails the perfect balance between light-heartedness and cheer, and the sombre themes of grief, guilt and loss. The exploration into loss and acceptance was both sensitive and thought-provoking, the writing metaphorical, sprinkled with deep nuances I appreciated. The characters and their relationships were all so beautiful and heartfelt, and like friendships hello?? – something rarely focused on in YA. Thank you to Xpresso Book Tours, Imprint and Netgalley, for a copy of this book in exchange for a sincere review!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Allison

    I write this as a licensed psychologist who has been in practice for over a decade: this is an important book for teens. Youth survivors of suicide are a unique group, and a lonely group. They often feel unseen, alienated from their peers and the world. This book is one thing that may help such youth feel more connected and find hope. It's also a useful book for friends and family of teens who have suffered a loss, for building empathy and perspective. To boot, it's artfully plotted, beautifully I write this as a licensed psychologist who has been in practice for over a decade: this is an important book for teens. Youth survivors of suicide are a unique group, and a lonely group. They often feel unseen, alienated from their peers and the world. This book is one thing that may help such youth feel more connected and find hope. It's also a useful book for friends and family of teens who have suffered a loss, for building empathy and perspective. To boot, it's artfully plotted, beautifully written, high on authenticity. I have purchased several copies for my private practice, to give to teens who have been through this experience. For me, there's no greater endorsement.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay

    So this started off slow, hooked me, and then left me disappointed after the 30% mark. The concept was perfect but the execution lagged. I realized at 52% that nothing was happening despite a regular camp story: lots of underage drinking and gossiping. Plus Lila and Noah exchanged a few sentences before making out and deciding they loved each other, and that ruined the story for me. I also didn't appreciate Sammy and his 11/12 year old self acting like a sexist, womanizing man. Everyone laughed So this started off slow, hooked me, and then left me disappointed after the 30% mark. The concept was perfect but the execution lagged. I realized at 52% that nothing was happening despite a regular camp story: lots of underage drinking and gossiping. Plus Lila and Noah exchanged a few sentences before making out and deciding they loved each other, and that ruined the story for me. I also didn't appreciate Sammy and his 11/12 year old self acting like a sexist, womanizing man. Everyone laughed and thought he was adorable but I kept cringing when he uttered his lines. There wasn't much healing which I hated because that is what made me want to read the book in the first place. I really wanted to like this one but I became more detached the further I read. Thank you Edelweiss for an ARC.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Anuradha Rajurkar

    I began this yesterday, and am already engrossed! Review to come...

  7. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia

    I wonder how many tissues I will need for this one. I am immensely grateful to Imprint and NetGalley for my digital review copy.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Brianna Bourne

    This story was absolutely lovely! Joan Smith tackles a heavy topic with humor, hope, and sweetness. The tone is great for both lower and upper ranges of YA—it never gets too dark to handle. I loved the large cast of characters, the summer camp setting, the sex-positive romance, and the diverse rep. A fresh, touching, and uplifting read!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Caro

    Thank you to Imprint/Macmillan, Xpresso Book Tour, and Netgalley for providing me with a digital Arc in exchange for an honest review! All quotes are taken from the Arc and therefore subject to changes. IMPRESSIONS Grief was explored in many different ways. Of course, Lila's own experience - which is drawn from the author's own background - is front and center. She deals with the mix of emotions after losing her dad to suicide and feeling like her life is falling apart around her. There is Thank you to Imprint/Macmillan, Xpresso Book Tour, and Netgalley for providing me with a digital Arc in exchange for an honest review! All quotes are taken from the Arc and therefore subject to changes. IMPRESSIONS Grief was explored in many different ways. Of course, Lila's own experience - which is drawn from the author's own background - is front and center. She deals with the mix of emotions after losing her dad to suicide and feeling like her life is falling apart around her. There is some stigma, anger and hurt involved for her, as Lila has problems comprehending how she didn't see this coming and why her dad would leave her behind. She's on a desperate search for answers in order to be able to move on with her life even a bit, as now it seems impossible. That makes The Half-Orphan's Handbook such a raw and emotional book as you experience all these intense emotions alongside Lila. Through the grief camp we get to see other experiences as well though! The idea of the Grief Camp was great. It's a 8 week long camp for any kids who have lost someone in their immediate family, and initially Lila has no intention of going. She doesn't get the point of it or trying out therapy. However, she cannot help but slowly see the merits of being around people who understand her. There is group therapy and many typical summer activities like kayaking, making S'mores or art offered for the campers in order to help them deal with their loss. I really like the setting of the camp, as it has some summer vibes but also emotional moments, as the children are still grieving, though they are also having fun moments. I like how mental health was explored in this setting! There were so many fantastic Friendships! ❤ Lila has trouble connecting with her friends at home, as they don't know how to deal with her loss. However, at the grief camp, she meets many people like her, who know exactly what it feels like to lose someone. That opens up a whole world of understanding for her and allows Lila to finally feel like someone gets her. Though she initially tries to not get attached to anyone - fearing she will lose them - she cannot help but find friends. I really liked the cast of secondary characters and their experience with grief. Winnie was probably my favorite, as she's super friendly, open and easy-going, immediately trying to put Lila at ease and include her at camp. She's also her bunkmate, alongside with Madison, who is a bit more distant. At first it seems like she's your typical Mean Girl, but it turns out that Madison has been through a lot and misplaced a lot of anger on Lila. Later, she opens up as well and the three of them have such a great connection! I also liked Deese, one of the boys at camp who develops such a wonderful friendship with Lila and helps her pick up sports again, which she kind of quit after losing her father. I also have the mention Jeff, the organizer of the grief camp, as he tried his best to help the kids confront their own feelings and enable them to move on. He's knows what grief is like and his dedication to camp was beautiful to see! "The moment you realize you don't have control over what anyone else does is the moment you find yourself comfortable with your world." I wish I had been able to connect a bit more to the story though. I liked Lila, but I didn't 100% connect to her emotionally. She was often hard on the people around her, even though many of them had gone through a similar experience and held them to such high standards. That got me frustrated at times, as her mistakes were often easily forgiven while Lila wasn't as forgiving herself. I also felt like the romance developed way too quickly and didn't give me much time to root for Lila and Noah. We barely got to know him before they suddenly liked each other. I was missing the chemistry and emotional connection between them as their attraction felt rushed and not as fleshed out, as it could have been. "I'd never been good with lasts. The last day of school, the last hurdling meet of the season - every time I knew I was experiencing a last, everything about it would feel much more poignant and significant." IN CONCLUSION. ➽ The Half-Orphan's Handbook is a heartfelt book exploring the grief of losing a parent to suicide and the question of how to move on with life with such a gaping hole in your heart. I liked the idea of a grief summer camp, as it brought the main character in contact with other kids that had gone through a similar experience and forged many strong friendships. If you like emotional, but hopeful books, this is perfect for you! INFORMATION ➽ CW's: Grief, Discussions of Death, Addiction & Mental Health ➽ Representation 🌷 Grief You can find me here 💖 Book Blog | Twitter | Be my friend on GR!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Dai Guerra

    Thank you to Netgalley and Macmillan Children's Publishg Group for the advanced copy of the book in exchange for my review. TW: suicide mention, suicide, death, addiction Thoughts and Themes: I knew this book would be heavy as I went into reading it just because of the subject matter that it tackles. Its hard for me to talk about this book without revealing too much personal information but this book hit close to home for a lot of reasons. I liked how the book went through a lot of the feelings tha Thank you to Netgalley and Macmillan Children's Publishg Group for the advanced copy of the book in exchange for my review. TW: suicide mention, suicide, death, addiction Thoughts and Themes: I knew this book would be heavy as I went into reading it just because of the subject matter that it tackles. Its hard for me to talk about this book without revealing too much personal information but this book hit close to home for a lot of reasons. I liked how the book went through a lot of the feelings that come along with grief and how it explores guilt along with loss. I thought that this book really showed how guilt factors into grief quite well and did it in a way that was still sensitive to the manner. This book felt healing for me and made me feel a lot less alone than I have felt in a while. I liked how the story points out that healing isn’t linear and how much work goes into it. I liked that we got to see each person deal with grief differently, and all ages deal with grief as well. I liked that we even have adults in this book that are dealing with grief and it is all different forms of grief. I cried for a good while after reading this book and the author’s note, I also messaged the author to say thanks for this book which is something I never do because I’m too scared to do that. There are books that I relate to, books that make me feel seen, books that help me heal from things, but rarely does a book do all of those things. This book felt like it was sent to me to say “hey I got you” much like Lila gets these people at camp to make her feel that way. Characters: Through this story we are introduced to multiple characters as they interact with our main character, Lila. We meet Lila’s brother, Sammy, Madison, Winnie, Noah, Deese and Jeff. I really liked all of the characters that we get to meet and loved all the relationships that are shown throughout this book. While we do get a romance between Lila and Noah, I thought that was a side of the book and not the main portion of it. I liked how their romance developed and the emotions that LIla has to face to allow someone to be with her. I thought it was good to see her grapple with those feelings and struggle to let herself have feelings for someone. I think this really showed how much she was holding onto the past and not letting herself move forward with her life since her dad wasn’t there anymore. I like how we get to see each character’s backstory and the reason for the way that they act towards others. I thought it was good to finally get Madison’s feelings out and the truth about Noah out as well. I liked how this was handled and how Lila is forced to see that she isn’t the only one dealing with a loss. There were times where Lila was annoying because of her attitude and the way she treated others but there was an understanding that each of them had their reasons. Writing Style: This story is told in first person point of view through Lila’s perspective. I really enjoyed having the story be told by Lila as a narrator because you find things out just as she does. I thought it was great to be there with her as we find out details about her father and then find out things about Noah. I think that made the story a lot more impactful because you for a minute are Lila.

  11. 5 out of 5

    ❀ Alex ❀ (The Scribe Owl)

    See this review and more at my blog, The Scribe Owl! Thank you to Xpresso Book Tours for an ARC in exchange for an honest review! 3/5 stars The Half-Orphan's Handbook is a heavy-hitting novel about grief and love. The Half-Orphan's Handbook is both heavy and lighthearted at the same time. Joan F. Smith mixes humor and hard topics with ease to make for an entertaining read. But for some reason, this book and I just didn't connect. I'll come back to this later but, although it was well done, things ju See this review and more at my blog, The Scribe Owl! Thank you to Xpresso Book Tours for an ARC in exchange for an honest review! 3/5 stars The Half-Orphan's Handbook is a heavy-hitting novel about grief and love. The Half-Orphan's Handbook is both heavy and lighthearted at the same time. Joan F. Smith mixes humor and hard topics with ease to make for an entertaining read. But for some reason, this book and I just didn't connect. I'll come back to this later but, although it was well done, things just weren't working out. It was me, not you! In The Half-Orphan's Handbook we follow Lila, a sixteen-year-old girl who recently lost her father to suicide. As you can guess, she's not taking it very well. To try and help, her mother decides to send her to an eight-week-long grief camp and won't take no for an answer. There a reluctant Lila makes friends, a more-than-friend, and lets the pieces of her heart come back together. Let me just say it now. Someone needs to read this book and that someone is not me. This is such a powerful book and I know that it's exactly what some people need in their lives. If you're going through anything like what Lila did, please give this book a try. But part of why I think I didn't like it as much was that I don't require it in my life right now. I am blessed with a happy and whole family and it just didn't resonate in the way that it would for its target audience. While I liked the aspects of grief and healing from it, I could have done without the romance. I know that it helps make the book a little more lighthearted, but it just felt like an extra element. YA contemporary? Romance required! What I did like in the way of relationships were the numerous friendships. It's not something you see in YA nearly enough. There was even *gasp* a platonic relationship with a guy and a girl? Inconceivable! All in all, this was a beautiful book and one that I think could resound with many people. I hope those readers find this book and it helps them get through a rough part in their lives.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Andrea Arango

    I don't remember where I came across the ARC form for this book, only that when I saw it was a YA about a girl who'd lost her dad and learned to deal with it at a summer grief camp, I immediately hit request. THE HALF-ORPHAN'S HANDBOOK was a hard book to read, though different enough from my own experience to make me feel like a spectator. My father's death was due to an unpreventable and unexpected heart attack. Lila's was due to addiction and suicide. Where I felt only sadness towards my father I don't remember where I came across the ARC form for this book, only that when I saw it was a YA about a girl who'd lost her dad and learned to deal with it at a summer grief camp, I immediately hit request. THE HALF-ORPHAN'S HANDBOOK was a hard book to read, though different enough from my own experience to make me feel like a spectator. My father's death was due to an unpreventable and unexpected heart attack. Lila's was due to addiction and suicide. Where I felt only sadness towards my father, Lila also felt anger and shame. It was this major difference in our grief that allowed me to read it without sinking, which is something I still have to be careful with to this day. I've read several negative reviews regarding the underage drinking and sex in this book, but honestly? Non-grieving teenagers do that too. It's not really a huge turn-off for me, especially in older YA, but if that's a deal-breaker for you, then maybe give this one a skip. Personally? I loved this book. I did. The honest representation of the spectrum of grief we get is beyond powerful, and I am so grateful to Joan F. Smith for using her own experiences with parental loss via suicide to craft a story that I'm sure will help many teenagers out there feel truly seen. I mean, do dad death stories still trigger me? Sometimes. But do I still seek them out? Occasionally, yeah. There's a reason grief camps and grief programs exist. We all want to be understood without having to explain, and Joan F. Smith is able to give us that because she's been through it herself. Differing opinions aside, #OwnVoices is a thing for a reason. And when reading about parental grief, I tend to selectively opt for the authors who belong to the #DeadParentClub themselves. Sure, anyone can write a dead parent story. But if you know, you know, and those books just hit different. Thank you, Joan. Truly. I can't wait for this one to debut next month. And for those of you still reading - I highly highly recommend y'all save this one to your lists.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    Lila didn't want to go to Camp Bonaventure (Dead Parent Camp to Lila) in Maine. It's a grief camp you send kids to bond with others who have lost loved ones. At her mother's insistence, it's just one more thing out of Lila's control. Well, at least she's not going alone. Her precocious twelve-year-old brother Sammy is going with her.  Lila's loss of her father is a journey filled with doubts, guilt, loneliness, anger, understanding, and most importantly friendship. I love the strong friendships i Lila didn't want to go to Camp Bonaventure (Dead Parent Camp to Lila) in Maine. It's a grief camp you send kids to bond with others who have lost loved ones. At her mother's insistence, it's just one more thing out of Lila's control. Well, at least she's not going alone. Her precocious twelve-year-old brother Sammy is going with her.  Lila's loss of her father is a journey filled with doubts, guilt, loneliness, anger, understanding, and most importantly friendship. I love the strong friendships in this book which I see as lifelong. Who better to understand you, than these kids who are going through the same thing? Lila, Madison, and Winnie come from different backgrounds but are able to talk openly about their feelings which sometimes cannot be done with others you've known all of your life.  I must say I love Sammy and I wish I had a thoughtful and cool little brother like him.  As for Noah, Lila's love interest, his tragic reason for being at the camp is a difficult one and would be very hard to live with. I understand Lila being angry at first about him not telling her and I'm glad she forgave him. Ms. Smith presents the stages of grief and the stigma of death with a fine balance of young adult humor and revelry and the heartbreaking reality of guilt and loss. Listening to the tragic and real stories of each of the characters is painful as they battle with the question of why it happened and how they deal with it. The activities at the camp are clever and well thought out for the mental well-being of the campers and Jeff, the camp director, is an important character in the story who has a tragic background himself. I recommend this beautifully written debut novel to people of all ages who have suffered a loss.  Thank you to Ms. Smith for giving me the opportunity to read this book with no expectation of a positive review.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Thindbooks

    *this e-arc was sent to me by the publisher to give an honest review in return* This was such an amazingly written book! It’s about a girl named Lila who loses her father to suicide and is send to a summer grief camp where she sets up two unbreakable rules for herself. Once Lila gets to camp, she realizes there is more about her family that she doesn’t know about and started to find answers. The author’s writing was just well done for this book. It was a raw and emotional book that was written in *this e-arc was sent to me by the publisher to give an honest review in return* This was such an amazingly written book! It’s about a girl named Lila who loses her father to suicide and is send to a summer grief camp where she sets up two unbreakable rules for herself. Once Lila gets to camp, she realizes there is more about her family that she doesn’t know about and started to find answers. The author’s writing was just well done for this book. It was a raw and emotional book that was written in the right way. The author has been through a similar journey (from what I read in the author’s note) and you can tell it from their writing. I thought the pacing was well done for this book and I enjoyed the setting of the camp. This book sends of the right messages but you must go through the Pai Paul journey in order to receive them. Lila is the main character of the book and it’s written in her POV. She goes through grief and pain but develops throughout the story. I enjoyed her adventures she had in this book like making friends, taking care of her brother, having a crush but also finding the answers she need. There were some great side characters that helped her out throughout the book and I especially enjoyed Lila’s close friends in this book. They each have their own reason to why they are at the camp and I enjoyed seeing their developments too. There is minor romance in this book but there is still some of it. The ending was well done for the book and the way it needed to be ended. The reason this book didn’t get 5/5 stars is because it wasn’t my favorite read but it was still a great book overall. This book was great though and I will for sure be reading more from this author. I recommend this book to fans of John Green and Jennifer Niven.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    "It’s been three months since Lila lost her father to suicide. Since then, she’s learned to protect herself from pain by following two unbreakable rules: 1. The only people who can truly hurt you are the ones you love. Therefore, love no one. 2. Stay away from liars. Liars are the worst." Like I said I went to summer camp when I was in elementary to high school only for a week at a time and I love the camp experience. This whole idea of camp for adolescents that have lost someone is such a beautifu "It’s been three months since Lila lost her father to suicide. Since then, she’s learned to protect herself from pain by following two unbreakable rules: 1. The only people who can truly hurt you are the ones you love. Therefore, love no one. 2. Stay away from liars. Liars are the worst." Like I said I went to summer camp when I was in elementary to high school only for a week at a time and I love the camp experience. This whole idea of camp for adolescents that have lost someone is such a beautiful idea. Losing a parent or loved one is beyond hard.  To lose a family member when you are just finding yourself as a person, when you are a kid or teen is tragic and irreparable. To be surrounded by others that understand and don't pity you must be a treasure in your grief. I enjoyed this book so much! I felt Lila's grief, I felt all of theirs actually. Lila's growth in her pain and learning to live with her loss was very healing. It is hard to remember that loss isn't something "to get over" it is something to learn to live with and learn who you are now without this person.  I loved the romances going on which honestly close proximity is real!  The rules she made at the beginning of her summer grew and some dropped off and as she learned from others grief and lessons. Also, I liked how it brought in that there are different types of grief and not all loss is because of death.  Also, the stigma of how your family member dies if it is a "shameful" choice or because of illegal actions reflects on the living family members unfortunately. I don't think the living relatives lives should be judged cause of their deceased relatives actions. Thank you to @fiercereads  for sending me a copy of the book for my honest and voluntary review!

  16. 5 out of 5

    PinkAmy loves books, cats and naps

    If you’ve ever read a book about a reluctant teen who’s sent to grief camp, you’ve already read THE HALF-ORPHAN’S HANDBOOK. This predictable book has nothing but tropes you’ve seen before. Lila tells reluctantly agrees to go for one week of the eight week camp, but readers know she’ll stay for the whole time and she’ll embrace the opportunity. Of course she will. THE HALF-ORPHAN’S HANDBOOK vacillates between heavy-handed in-your-face Big Issues and lighthearted camp shenanigans. Grief camp can’t If you’ve ever read a book about a reluctant teen who’s sent to grief camp, you’ve already read THE HALF-ORPHAN’S HANDBOOK. This predictable book has nothing but tropes you’ve seen before. Lila tells reluctantly agrees to go for one week of the eight week camp, but readers know she’ll stay for the whole time and she’ll embrace the opportunity. Of course she will. THE HALF-ORPHAN’S HANDBOOK vacillates between heavy-handed in-your-face Big Issues and lighthearted camp shenanigans. Grief camp can’t be complete without Instalove. Debut writer Joan F Smith mustn’t have done research on therapeutic camps, because she’d have readers believe the experience was cost prohibitive, when similar camps are funded by foundations and often free to campers. At the very least they have scholarships for low income folks. I can forgive the creative license for making the came all summer rather than open to more kids for one week intervals, because the story was much better over eight weeks than it would have been at one. Better research would have had licensed therapists at the camp. If you don’t mind reading books you’ve seen before, THE HALF-ORPHAN’S HANDBOOK isn’t a bad book. There’s just nothing fresh or original here.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    I read THE HALF ORPHAN’S HANDBOOK in a single weekend, completely mesmerized by this beautiful story of grief and healing. The summer after her father’s suicide, 16-year-old Lila’s mother pressures her to attend a camp for children and teens who have lost a loved one. The eight weeks that follow are profound and life-altering. Friendships are made, loss is borne with those who can truly understand it, and love is dared. Lila’s journey is so beautifully told. While ‘grief camp’ sounds like it cou I read THE HALF ORPHAN’S HANDBOOK in a single weekend, completely mesmerized by this beautiful story of grief and healing. The summer after her father’s suicide, 16-year-old Lila’s mother pressures her to attend a camp for children and teens who have lost a loved one. The eight weeks that follow are profound and life-altering. Friendships are made, loss is borne with those who can truly understand it, and love is dared. Lila’s journey is so beautifully told. While ‘grief camp’ sounds like it could be a lot of weight for the reader, the camp setting and the shared experience of this marvelously detailed cast of characters somehow help us bear the heaviness of the subject. Joan F. Smith’s balancing act in that regard is remarkable. Humor is injected at just the right times, the prose is lyrical, and the portrayal of new friendships and first loves is pitch-perfect. An absolutely gorgeous story, gorgeously told. I wish I’d had this for my students back in my child psychology days. THE HALF ORPHAN’S HANDBOOK should be in libraries everywhere there are young adults. Many thanks to the publisher and to NetGalley for the eARC.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Laura Hill

    Thank you to Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on April 6th, 2021. A well-written book about a young girl going through the grief of her father’s recent suicide. Lila is 16 and has been reluctantly cajoled into attending a grief camp for the summer. This is the story of her slow journey towards healing, including a healthy amount of new friends, a budding love interest, and th Thank you to Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on April 6th, 2021. A well-written book about a young girl going through the grief of her father’s recent suicide. Lila is 16 and has been reluctantly cajoled into attending a grief camp for the summer. This is the story of her slow journey towards healing, including a healthy amount of new friends, a budding love interest, and that irreverent teen style that helps makes the unbearable, bearable. The author, who went through a similar experience, does an excellent job at describing the confusion of competing feelings, the different ways grief hits you at different times, and the eventual return to the three Ls: laughing, loving, and living without guilt. I really liked all the characters, and I want to emphasize that this was not at all a depressing book — there was a lot of honest reflection, observation, and fun. Plenty of racial and sexual diversity as well as discussions of addiction, suicide, and first love.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    It’s been three months since Lila lost her father to suicide. Since then, she’s learned to protect herself from pain by following two unbreakable rules: 1. The only people who can truly hurt you are the ones you love. Therefore, love no one. 2. Stay away from liars. Liars are the worst. But when Lila’s mother sends her to a summer-long grief camp, it’s suddenly harder for Lila to follow these rules. Potential new friends and an unexpected crush threaten to drag her back into life for the first time It’s been three months since Lila lost her father to suicide. Since then, she’s learned to protect herself from pain by following two unbreakable rules: 1. The only people who can truly hurt you are the ones you love. Therefore, love no one. 2. Stay away from liars. Liars are the worst. But when Lila’s mother sends her to a summer-long grief camp, it’s suddenly harder for Lila to follow these rules. Potential new friends and an unexpected crush threaten to drag her back into life for the first time since her dad’s death. The Half-Orphan's Handbook is a sweet coming-of-age story as well as an empathetic, authentic exploration of grief. This book has a big heart. It’s perfect for fans of John Green and other YA tear-jerkers. Lila is a likeable character and you can’t help but root for her and all the other kids at camp. One small quibble: the running scenario was not very believable. I don’t care how young you are – no one can go from barely being able to run a 10-min mile to running a 7-mile road race with a sub 7-min mile pace after training for four weeks in the August heat. Sorry! :) Thank you #netgalley for the #arc in exchange for an honest review.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    Many thanks to EdelweissPlus and the publisher for providing me with a DRC of this title for review. All opinions are my own. This was a fantastic, heartbreaking book about grief and moving on. Lila's father died by suicide and she was completely blindsided. As she struggles with her grief, she starts a list of rules, the Half Orphans Handbook, that she thinks will help her to avoid this type of hurt in the future. She never could have imagined something like this happening and she thinks that if Many thanks to EdelweissPlus and the publisher for providing me with a DRC of this title for review. All opinions are my own. This was a fantastic, heartbreaking book about grief and moving on. Lila's father died by suicide and she was completely blindsided. As she struggles with her grief, she starts a list of rules, the Half Orphans Handbook, that she thinks will help her to avoid this type of hurt in the future. She never could have imagined something like this happening and she thinks that if she just knew WHY he did it, she would be able to move on. To get over it. To feel better again. But her mom tells her she doesn't have all the information yet. That she will tell Lila when she knows more and is sure of the information. And until then, she thinks Lila should head to summer camp. For kids who have experienced loss. Lila agrees to a week, but then is faced with the choice of getting kicked out or putting in the work and staying for the eight weeks. She stays, but learns that her rules won't always save her from pain. And that missing pain means you also miss life. Highly recommend. First purchase book especially for collections where readers enjoy realistic fiction.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Adriana

    Poor Lila is lost after her father inexplicably commits suicide and a summer camp for kids who've experienced loss is the last place she wants to be. But what she soon learns is that, even after loss, life goes on. Smith filed this story with great characters that not only help Lila on her path to acceptance, they also show that everyone grieves differently. They each have their story to tell and that informs the way that Lila starts opening up to the world. The romance she finds with fellow cam Poor Lila is lost after her father inexplicably commits suicide and a summer camp for kids who've experienced loss is the last place she wants to be. But what she soon learns is that, even after loss, life goes on. Smith filed this story with great characters that not only help Lila on her path to acceptance, they also show that everyone grieves differently. They each have their story to tell and that informs the way that Lila starts opening up to the world. The romance she finds with fellow camper Noah is the cherry on top to sweetness (and the requisite melodrama) to the story. This book deals with the very difficult subject of loss very empathically. It also includes different ways of grieving and acceptance, so I love Smith for showing younger readers that there is no 'right' way to deal with loss. Overall, an emotional and well-written story about loss and how moving forward may feel impossible, but it can happen with love, friendship, and acceptance. Many happy thanks to NetGalley and Imprint for the early read.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Casie Bazay

    The Half-Orphan's Handbook follows Lila as she reluctantly heads to grief camp for the summer after the recent suicide of her father. Once there, she meets new friends and a falls for a boy, and with their support, plus that of the camp founder, eventually begins the painful process of healing. This story obviously deals with heavy topics, but it's beautifully told and has many light and funny moments as well. I really enjoyed the author's writing style as well as the unfolding of this story. Co The Half-Orphan's Handbook follows Lila as she reluctantly heads to grief camp for the summer after the recent suicide of her father. Once there, she meets new friends and a falls for a boy, and with their support, plus that of the camp founder, eventually begins the painful process of healing. This story obviously deals with heavy topics, but it's beautifully told and has many light and funny moments as well. I really enjoyed the author's writing style as well as the unfolding of this story. Coming to grips with death, especially that of a parent, is an excruciatingly slow process and I thought the story portrayed that well. No one saves Lila or heals her--she realizes she has to put in all the hard work herself. The summer camp setting was so relatable and brought back many memories of my own teenage years, and I thought the romantic relationship was realistic and sweet. I really enjoyed this book!

  23. 5 out of 5

    AsiahMae

    This book kind of messed me up. Not only is it a beautiful and realistic story about love and loss and grief and life, but it’s written SO well at times it felt like poetry. It was as if nothing was too vulnerable to discuss, even when it was the words danced across the page in a way that felt moving and fair. I wanted to hug so many people in this book at so many times. The best take away was that no one is perfect, life is complex and that the truth can sometimes have different truths, dependi This book kind of messed me up. Not only is it a beautiful and realistic story about love and loss and grief and life, but it’s written SO well at times it felt like poetry. It was as if nothing was too vulnerable to discuss, even when it was the words danced across the page in a way that felt moving and fair. I wanted to hug so many people in this book at so many times. The best take away was that no one is perfect, life is complex and that the truth can sometimes have different truths, depending on who you know. If you or anyone you know has lost someone, this is a great book for healing. Thank you to NetGallery for my advanced copy, it was well worth the read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tela Van Der Gaarden

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. 3.5⭐️⭐️⭐️ So i really had a hard time understanding the MC. Mostly because she gave me an younger then 16 vibe. But i get that if you have been shelterd of and had a really easy going life , always the good girl that you be like this. Its was mostly a camp story. But it really captured the grieving side feelings. It had some advice and really captured the grieving side. The side characters missed some depth, and the insta love I didn’t felt that. However its a good book emotionally. There are som 3.5⭐️⭐️⭐️ So i really had a hard time understanding the MC. Mostly because she gave me an younger then 16 vibe. But i get that if you have been shelterd of and had a really easy going life , always the good girl that you be like this. Its was mostly a camp story. But it really captured the grieving side feelings. It had some advice and really captured the grieving side. The side characters missed some depth, and the insta love I didn’t felt that. However its a good book emotionally. There are some triggering parts so if you want to read this remember it really talks about all sorts of los!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kit

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. **I received an eARC of this book from Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group & NetGalley in exchange for my honest review** This book was hauntingly beautiful and captured grief in a really accurate light. I think the way suicide wa s handled was also done really well. It’s not often you find books dealing with grief, mental illness, or addiction with such care. This book will hook you. You will feel Lila’s pain, anger, heartache, and cheer for her to move through her grief. This book was honestl **I received an eARC of this book from Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group & NetGalley in exchange for my honest review** This book was hauntingly beautiful and captured grief in a really accurate light. I think the way suicide wa s handled was also done really well. It’s not often you find books dealing with grief, mental illness, or addiction with such care. This book will hook you. You will feel Lila’s pain, anger, heartache, and cheer for her to move through her grief. This book was honestly just really good.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kalena Miller

    What a powerful book! The concept of a "grief camp" was fascinating to me from the start, and I thought weaving together of all those fun summer camp tropes--embarrassing hazing rituals, dodgeball games, sneaking out late at night--with the heaviness of grief and loss was incredibly well done. I loved the cast of character--especially the adults!--and was struck time and time again by the author's ability to convey the character's grief in such visceral and heart-wrenching ways. What a powerful book! The concept of a "grief camp" was fascinating to me from the start, and I thought weaving together of all those fun summer camp tropes--embarrassing hazing rituals, dodgeball games, sneaking out late at night--with the heaviness of grief and loss was incredibly well done. I loved the cast of character--especially the adults!--and was struck time and time again by the author's ability to convey the character's grief in such visceral and heart-wrenching ways.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    I normally can relate to YA books but this one is a lil different. The story is interesting, it tackles grief and strong emotions of a young lady who lose her dad on suicide and got sent on a camp whos participants went through the same thing. I mean, I am pro moving on, but for a story who have a powerful message to sends about grief and moving on, this one seems to focus on Lila and her romance. It felt a bit off. but anyway, it is still a good read, it have so many wonderful points.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Caitie

    Grief is a hard subject to tackle, but this book did it very well. Lila is a relatable character, her feelings about her dad seemed genuine to me. It can be difficult to deal with the death of a loved one, especially when it’s not expected. I liked this idea of a summer camp designed to help kids deal with the grief they’re facing.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jennie Wexler

    An absolutely gorgeous book that tackles grief and healing through compelling storytelling. THE HALF-ORPHAN'S HANDBOOK is set at a grief camp but it is ultimately a story about hope and strength. I was lucky enough to receive and read an early copy. This stunning book is a must for 2021! An absolutely gorgeous book that tackles grief and healing through compelling storytelling. THE HALF-ORPHAN'S HANDBOOK is set at a grief camp but it is ultimately a story about hope and strength. I was lucky enough to receive and read an early copy. This stunning book is a must for 2021!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    that synopsis is doing things to me

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