I'm writing this review for Diverse Book Tours (Woohoo!), and received a copy of Christine's Odyssey in exchange for my honest review. So, here it is…
First, I should say that I originally thought this was a mid-grade book, and when I started reading it I thought the designation was crazy because it is DEFINITELY NOT a mid-grade book. The heroine of the story is eleven years old, but that doesn't make the content appropriate for middle-schoolers. There are some fairly gory, violent moments, but I'll get to that later.
The story is set in Jamaica and written by a Jamaican woman, so it's probably pretty authentic in description of customs, language, and setting. Not a lot of time is devoted to describing things, but the feeling of the place comes up naturally as the story progresses. I enjoyed spending time in a warmer part of the world, especially since it's so freezing cold here right now.
I liked how gritty and realistic the story stayed as I followed Christine's thoughts and actions (even though I can't say that was actually enjoyable. It wasn't supposed to be), and how the voice changed when the story was told through the eyes of adults. This would be a good book for people who want to understand adopted and foster kids better. Obviously, not all kids go through the same crazy things Christine did, but they go through other crazy things and many of them just as bad. There were times when the girl's thoughts seemed a little too heavy-handed, along the lines of "If my mom doesn't love me, how could anyone else love me?" which I think a lot of people feel, but probably eleven-year-olds don't articulate it. But it didn't happen often and it wasn't unforgivable.
The mood of the book is fairly dark, not surprising considering the content, and doesn't start to lighten until near the end. Because of this, I probably wouldn’t have read it if I hadn't signed up for the book tour, but I'm glad I did. I'll have to read a couple fun, lighthearted books before I go on to the next in the series because I don't do dark very well, but I'll eventually read book 2.
There were few editing issues and the story flowed well, with the exception of some formatting problems. At times I had difficulty following conversations because the paragraphs were broken up in odd places and I had to re-read to figure out who was talking. It seemed like the hard return had been placed instead of spaces, or something. Similarly, there were several times when a section was ended by the scene-end marker, but the scene hadn't actually ended and the point of view had not changed. I didn't get that at all and it annoyed me a little, but not enough to get me ranting or anything. Also, once or twice the scene actually did change without warning. One minute Christine was sitting under the tree and the next someone was hugging her in the living room. I re-read a couple times to figure out what was going on.
I got frustrated with the adults in the book quite a few times, but I was supposed to so that's not a downside. It's infuriating that people can be so selfish and weak. Not saying I'm never that person, but a few times in the book, adults (even adults we're supposed to like) made choices that were just wrong for the sake of their own convenience. Rather than seeing this as a weakness in the book, I see it as a call to see our own weakness and consider inconveniencing ourselves for the sake of others. I'm further encouraged to consider adopting older children when my own (adopted) child is older.
Language: I remember one time when 'Jesus' was used as a profanity, and that's it.
Sexual Content: None.
Violence: Some beatings and surprisingly graphic violence near the beginning.
Over-all Message/Plot: This isn't plot-heavy fiction. I recommend to anyone who enjoys realistic drama and doesn't mind that most of the book is told from the point of view of an eleven-year-old.
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