counter The Half Orphan's Handbook - Free Download Books
Hot Best Seller

The Half Orphan's Handbook

Availability: Ready to download

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.


Compare

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. 4 out of 5

    Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell

    Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest THE HALF-ORPHAN'S HANDBOOK is a young adult book about grief. The heroine, Lila, has just lost her father to suicide and isn't handling it well. (Which is totally understandable.) When she finds out her mother has sent her to grief camp, she feels betrayed (also understandable). They work out an agreement that she has to stick it out for a week and then she can leave. Lila grudgingly goes and ends up striking up an acquaintance with some Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest THE HALF-ORPHAN'S HANDBOOK is a young adult book about grief. The heroine, Lila, has just lost her father to suicide and isn't handling it well. (Which is totally understandable.) When she finds out her mother has sent her to grief camp, she feels betrayed (also understandable). They work out an agreement that she has to stick it out for a week and then she can leave. Lila grudgingly goes and ends up striking up an acquaintance with some of the campers that makes her realize that things are better if you don't have to endure alone. There's nothing really wrong with this book. I just didn't really like the style all that much. It felt a little bland, and maybe that's just because the heroine was numbed from her grief but I'm not quite sure it was, because even the more emotionally intense scenes rang a little hollow for me. I think it was just a stylistic incompatibility. It's compared to Emily X.R. Pan and John Green's works and I don't really care for either of those authors because I find them both bland and kind of obnoxiously twee and precocious, so maybe that's the issue. I did love the author's note at the back of the book and recommend reading it, as it puts the work in perspective. For the right person, this will be a work of solace and comfort. It just wasn't that book for me. Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review! 2 to 2.5 stars

  2. 4 out of 5

    Melanie (mells_view)

    The Half-Orphan's Handbook is a deeply emotional YA contemporary that discusses grief, guilt, and loss with an edge of humor to lighten it up. Add in a camp setting and friendship, and you've got a incredibly well written story that covers some heavy topics. That said, you definitely need to be in the mood to read about those heavier topics, and honestly be prepared to cry a bit. Lila's journey through her grief is a great story. Have your tissues ready, but don't fret you will smile as well. CW: The Half-Orphan's Handbook is a deeply emotional YA contemporary that discusses grief, guilt, and loss with an edge of humor to lighten it up. Add in a camp setting and friendship, and you've got a incredibly well written story that covers some heavy topics. That said, you definitely need to be in the mood to read about those heavier topics, and honestly be prepared to cry a bit. Lila's journey through her grief is a great story. Have your tissues ready, but don't fret you will smile as well. CW: grief, death of a parent, references to suicide, underage drinking Available NOW! *ARC

  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! 。・:*:・゚★,。・:*:・゚☆ blog | instagram | amazon wishlist 📚

  4. 4 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 4 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.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lacey Mubanga

    This story is a wonderful exploration of grief, mainly centered on the death by suicide of a parent. A few months after Lila’s father commits suicide, she is sent to a summer camp for other kids going through the same thing. There we watch a handful of kids deal with their own losses. I loved the setting of this book. Even this type of summer camp was enjoyable to read. The way the author mixed portions of dealing with their pain and just having some fun was actually enjoyable to read. Though th This story is a wonderful exploration of grief, mainly centered on the death by suicide of a parent. A few months after Lila’s father commits suicide, she is sent to a summer camp for other kids going through the same thing. There we watch a handful of kids deal with their own losses. I loved the setting of this book. Even this type of summer camp was enjoyable to read. The way the author mixed portions of dealing with their pain and just having some fun was actually enjoyable to read. Though the underlying reason for this book is sad, it is not a sad book. I feel like it was very realistic in how it portrayed kids dealing with these tragedies at their age. The romance in here was realistic, for sure, but a couple of things happened that I was not a fan of. That is purely a personal preference, but the main reason that this book just cannot get 5-stars from me. I highly recommend this YA novel if you enjoy books centered around the grief and healing.

  8. 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.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Riley

    This was one of the best fiction novels I’ve read in a long time. Absolutely depressing (so if you’re depressed or paranoid I would not recommend it), yet I read this book for 5 hours straight because I could not put it down. The plot, the depiction of reality— it was absolutely captivating but at the same time polarizing.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Anuradha Rajurkar

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

  11. 4 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.

  12. 4 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.

  13. 4 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!

  14. 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!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I was marking in the margins each time this story made me cry, but it got to be so much that I was consistently teary the entire second half of the book. But this book isn’t just sad. It’s sad — it is, in the way a book about children grieving dead parents and loved ones would be — but it’s also hopeful and inspiring and so, so funny. I was crying one minute, laughing out loud the next. My partner kept looking at me with one eyebrow raised like, “U OK?” Lila is a character I can see myself in des I was marking in the margins each time this story made me cry, but it got to be so much that I was consistently teary the entire second half of the book. But this book isn’t just sad. It’s sad — it is, in the way a book about children grieving dead parents and loved ones would be — but it’s also hopeful and inspiring and so, so funny. I was crying one minute, laughing out loud the next. My partner kept looking at me with one eyebrow raised like, “U OK?” Lila is a character I can see myself in despite not having experienced the death of my father. She’s witty, sharp, motivated, moody. She shells-up to protect herself from further harm, and she doesn’t shell-up in the way that a lot of people do — in a deep, unknowing, drowning kind of way. She does is consciously. Logically. Like a Virgo (is she a Virgo?). She develops a plan and opens this notebook and makes a list like a nerdy little future writer that I love and want to hug close to my heart. And we see her constantly struggle between desperately trying to stick to her own rules and also not being able to help but enjoy the small beauties that life has to offer us in our times of grief - new friendships with people who get it just a little bit more than others, parents who forgive us when we say the shittiest things to them, art made from scraps, a surprising crush, and adults who care enough to not let us get away with our own teenage bullshit. This book is such a love letter to professional mental health help. As someone who has experienced suicidal thoughts and has battled the internal judgment and external stigmas of needing that treatment just to function in everyday life, I am so grateful that this book exists. I wish it had existed when I was a teenager. I wish there were more stories that were able to send this message without making the entire story read like a pamphlet you’d see in your guidance counselor’s office. Stories whose messages just seep into you as you’re reading because they’re that good. I also tend to be super critical of books that display mental health professionals because I always feel like I am constantly thinking, “no therapist would ever say that!” I did not have that problem with this book. I did wish we had gotten to see a little more of Jeff, but I understand why we didn’t. I enjoyed the pieces he was in, and I LOVED the concept of the snooze button. Obsessed with that. Lastly, I loved the way the author weaves words together. There were a lot of sentences and paragraphs I underlined and highlighted to go back and marvel in. Some of my favorites: “Past-perfect tense for an imperfect past.” “We sat there for a long time, my family’s attendance rate holding steady at 75 percent.” “My stomach was sour with emptiness.” “My soul lives within Ariana Grande’s ponytail. That’s the most mythic ally alive thing I know.” (Literally LOL’ed.) “Operation Gove Camp a Chance is now in session.” And later, “I’m piloting a new program of Jeff’s called Operation Give Camp a Chance.” “Now, you really need to stop crying. Your perfect face looks weird with red eyes.” “It’s not something you get over; it’s something you wade through. It just becomes one of your memories.” “The hard and terrible truth I didn’t want to consider was that mental illness had been a part of my father he could no more scrape from his soul than I could the freckles from my face. It was a great fact—the big kind of great, not the good kind—that my father’s beautiful/awful double life was just a single one.” Other things that I loved: - Lila/Mom dynamic - So perfect - The moment Lila finally “sent a message out” to her dad. - Madison and Winnie hugging Lila in bed. - Lila deciding to run the race, and asking Deese to do it with her. - Sammy fixing Lila’s art project (wtf so unexpected!!!) <3 - The letter from Josie - Lila asking Winnie & Madison to go to the race - “Friends... and maybe?” “And maybe.” Overall, just a lovely book. I hope to see more from this author very soon!

  16. 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.

  17. 4 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.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lindsay Clark

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. First, I’m glad someone wrote a book about grief camp. Grief camp is amazing, and talking about death and loss with young people is incredibly important. Unfortunately, this book gets a lot wrong about grief camp. Where are the adults? There appear to only be about 3 of them, and kids and teenagers basically do whatever they want totally unsupervised and unstructured all the time. This idea of camp feels like one you’d see on tv, but isn’t like real life camp OR real life grief camp. One of the First, I’m glad someone wrote a book about grief camp. Grief camp is amazing, and talking about death and loss with young people is incredibly important. Unfortunately, this book gets a lot wrong about grief camp. Where are the adults? There appear to only be about 3 of them, and kids and teenagers basically do whatever they want totally unsupervised and unstructured all the time. This idea of camp feels like one you’d see on tv, but isn’t like real life camp OR real life grief camp. One of the grief support groups includes three 16 year olds, a 13 year old, and an 8 year old. This just isn’t how that works, and it’s bizarre to think it would be appropriate for a young child to be in the same group as teens. There are twins who are named the inversely hyphenated names. The counselor doesn’t stay in the bunk with kids at night and is largely absent. To say nothing of the fact that one character is clearly hiding something that is blatantly foreshadowed the entire book… and that something turns out to be that he has (spoiler alert) *not actually had a death in his family*. That’s right, he’s at grief camp despite not having the one circumstance that qualifies you for grief camp, and the director knows and is in on this. This part was OUTRAGEOUS to me, and the characters in the story are nowhere near offended or angry enough about it. I like that the author wanted to shed light on a difficult topic, and that she was inspired by a grief camp established post-9/11 in Maine, but as someone who has worked at a grief camp established post-9/11 in Maine, it didn’t scratch the surface of what that’s like, and was largely disappointing. There are so many amazing stories that could be shared about the experiences kids and teens have at grief camp, but this ended up being a predictable and surface-level teen romance that just happened to be set at a camp, rather than a deeper exploration of how supportive and healing spending a summer with other kids who have gone through the same difficult things you have could have been. I wanted this to ring true to my experience being part of a phenomenal and moving grief camp, and it just wasn’t.

  19. 5 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.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Tara T.

    *Spoilers Ahead* “Grief is showering in the old shower stall in the basement bathroom so no one will hear you cry. It is wearing your dad’s winter pajamas to bed so you can use the flannel to soak up your tears. Grief is ferocious and hot.” The Half-Orphan’s Handbook tells the story of that grief—in a truly lovely and heart-wrenching way. This book had me welling up from the get-go, delving deep into the complicated feelings that arise from familial relationships. While I haven’t experienced a los *Spoilers Ahead* “Grief is showering in the old shower stall in the basement bathroom so no one will hear you cry. It is wearing your dad’s winter pajamas to bed so you can use the flannel to soak up your tears. Grief is ferocious and hot.” The Half-Orphan’s Handbook tells the story of that grief—in a truly lovely and heart-wrenching way. This book had me welling up from the get-go, delving deep into the complicated feelings that arise from familial relationships. While I haven’t experienced a loss like Lila’s, I felt her sadness, pain and yes—grief—in the way that she tells her story. The good and the bad memories. The anger and confusion. The heartbreak. And the absence of things that should have been there (or vice versa, as with the shoes that collected on the Cunningham family’s staircase). I’d like to take a moment to admire those gripping gaps: the early-morning coffee, the last pack of cookies, the dripping sink. Every description pulled at my heart and reminded me that the feelings Lila is experiencing are visceral and present, even as she works to move forward. But move forward Lila does, despite the crush of continuous emotions, with a colorful cast of characters that make her story such a wonderful one. Winnie, Madison, Deese, Noah and Sammy fill the pages with incredible depth, humor and warmth. Winnie and Lila’s banter made me laugh out loud on several occasions, and Deese and Lila’s blossoming friendship was such a pleasant surprise. Lila’s story is an important one. Watching her reopen her heart in the face of tragedy made mine go out to her—and her final list made me cry and smile at the same time because it truly highlighted her emotional journey. “You’re going to love people. They’re going to let you down. If they didn’t, then maybe you wouldn’t know how much you valued them in the first place.” Beautiful. Just beautiful. 5/5 stars.

  21. 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.

  22. 4 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.

  23. 4 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!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Beth VanCurine

    I wish I could say how much I loved the characters in this book. I fell in love with all of them. Lila and Sammy and their friends are all beautifully written and devastatingly real. I wanted to hug them all and tell them everything would be okay. Lila's father has died, leaving her and her brother Sammy half-orphans. He died by suicide, and Lila just can't wrap her mind around that. To deal with this unbearable and understandable grief, Lila's mother sends her and Sammy to a summer camp for kid I wish I could say how much I loved the characters in this book. I fell in love with all of them. Lila and Sammy and their friends are all beautifully written and devastatingly real. I wanted to hug them all and tell them everything would be okay. Lila's father has died, leaving her and her brother Sammy half-orphans. He died by suicide, and Lila just can't wrap her mind around that. To deal with this unbearable and understandable grief, Lila's mother sends her and Sammy to a summer camp for kids who have all lost someone close to them. Lila is extremely reluctant at first, but as she comes to get to know her fellow campers, she begins to open up about her grief and to heal, though she realizes it will be a long road. This book is for anybody who has ever lost somebody, or would be a great read-together for parents/educators and teens who may need to talk through any of these issues together. Like I mentioned above, I thought all of the characters and the situations at camp felt very realistic and relatable, even though I have not experienced that kind of grief and I've never been to camp. These kids all had something to teach. My heart broke for all of them, and I wept and cheered alongside them as they broke down and tried to stand back up. It's an excellent book for teens who like realistic fiction, like John Green, but is also a great book for a teen who may need to work through any difficult heartbreaking situations. Content: There are a few instances of underage drinking and mild language. There is death discussed, as it is central to the plot of the book. There is also sex once, but the act itself is not described as much as the feelings around the experience are described. Recommended for high school students.

  25. 5 out of 5

    AvidBibliophile

    When a family quartet becomes a trio, everyone must assume new roles and identities, and for a young girl named Lila, that also means finding herself again. When the pain and shock of losing her father right before her 16th birthday disrupts the world she used to know, her well-meaning school counselor suggests she agree to an eight-week stay at the infamous Camp Bonaventure, a grief camp for adolescent sufferers. Despite her reluctance to go, the camp at least offers her a respite away from BOG When a family quartet becomes a trio, everyone must assume new roles and identities, and for a young girl named Lila, that also means finding herself again. When the pain and shock of losing her father right before her 16th birthday disrupts the world she used to know, her well-meaning school counselor suggests she agree to an eight-week stay at the infamous Camp Bonaventure, a grief camp for adolescent sufferers. Despite her reluctance to go, the camp at least offers her a respite away from BOGO coffin deals and a freshly broken family tree, and while there, she experiences an unexpected attraction and all of the nervous flirtation that comes with it. Readers watch her navigate the inevitable ups and downs of finding her new path through life, and they also get to enjoy all of the teenage angst, confusion, lust, and jealousy that goes along with it! There will always be unanswered questions that linger amidst the tangible reminders of a loved one’s former presence, but finding concealed notes often helps bring about some much-needed closure. Some choices bring with them an irreversible finality, and anyone who has ever been directly affected by suicide will relate to many of the emotions and scenes in this book. There are included mentions of eating disorders, substance abuse, marital infidelity, behavioral addictions, and murder, but I think this story would be appropriate for any teenage reader in search of a memorable coming-of-age novel. I loved the silhouetted forest illustrations that appeared along the bottom edge of each new chapter page, and the font choices and overall length felt approachable and age-appropriate. I’d recommend this bildungsroman without hesitation!

  26. 5 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.

  27. 4 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.

  28. 4 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.

  29. 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.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kathryn (Katie) Burlo

    I love it when books can explore tough topics like grief, death, and hard emotions, while also being books that can appeal to young people and also have some humor involved. Smith does this very, very well. Lila is a character that you really feel for from the beginning, and I’d definitely say you may cry when reading this book. Themes like family, friendship, mental health, and loss are all explored, and Lila stands strong through it all. She’s witty and resilient, but also struggles with withd I love it when books can explore tough topics like grief, death, and hard emotions, while also being books that can appeal to young people and also have some humor involved. Smith does this very, very well. Lila is a character that you really feel for from the beginning, and I’d definitely say you may cry when reading this book. Themes like family, friendship, mental health, and loss are all explored, and Lila stands strong through it all. She’s witty and resilient, but also struggles with withdrawing herself due to all the pain she has experienced. Madison and Winnie are also great characters, and the way they interact with Lila and each other is really sweet to read. Overall I’m really happy with this book - I love the way it covers sad topics but also is lighthearted enough to not be too hard to get through. Even if you haven’t experienced what Lila experienced, which is something really, really hard and sad, you can still connect and learn (as well as cry and grow with her) throughout the book. So glad I read this. Consensus: 5/5 For more reviews and book boards, follow me on IG! @katiebreads

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...