The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord

Posted May 4, 2017 by Madalyn || 12 Comments

The Names They Gave Us by Emery LordThe Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord
Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens on May 16th 2017
Pages: 400
Format: ARC
Source: Gifted

Lucy Hansson was ready for a perfect summer with her boyfriend, working at her childhood Bible camp on the lake. But when her mom’s cancer reappears, Lucy falters—in faith, in love, and in her ability to cope. When her boyfriend “pauses” their relationship and her summer job switches to a different camp—one for troubled kids—Lucy isn’t sure how much more she can handle. Attempting to accept a new normal, Lucy slowly regains footing among her vibrant, diverse coworkers, Sundays with her mom, and a crush on a fellow counselor. But when long-hidden family secrets emerge, can Lucy set aside her problems and discover what grace really means?

(Before I start my review, I wanna say a quick thank you to Brooke @ Brooke Reports for sending this ARC my way!)

Oh, you guys. This book. THIS. BOOK. I’ve had hit or miss luck with Emery Lord in the past– I thought Open Road Summer and When We Collided were just okay, but her novel The Start of Me and You is one of my all-time favorite books and means more to me than I can articulate. I’m so happy to say that The Names They Gave Us completely reaffirmed my love of Emery Lord’s writing. It affected me emotionally in a way that a book hasn’t in a long while– after reading the last page, I closed the book, sat in my bed, and sobbed for a solid 15 minutes. Not just crying– I’m talking full-on bawling like a child. Not because the book was sad, but because this story and these characters affected me so much on a deep emotional level.

The Names They Gave Us follows our main character, Lucy, over the course of a summer. Instead of going to help out at her family’s Bible camp, as she usually does every summer, her mother (who has just been diagnosed with cancer) sends Lucy to the neighboring Camp Daybreak, a camp for children and teens processing grief or dealing with some sort of “baggage” (as another character puts it). Not only is Lucy processing her mother’s relapse of cancer and being in an unfamiliar setting, but her boyfriend of many years has decided to “pause” their relationship for the summer. So, it’s safe to say that Lucy grapples with lots of change and uncertainty throughout the novel. As someone who is not and never has been religious, I am always hesitant of books where the protagonist is heavily religious. However, I thought Lucy’s experiences with her Christian faith were presented sensitively, without feeling preachy at all. She goes through struggles with her faith, which I think is super common for teens going through big changes in their lives. I love that Lord chose to portray this in YA. In fact, Lucy goes through tremendous character growth in general over the course of the book, not just in terms of her faith. I think this is a huge reason why I cried so much at the end of the book– I just felt so PROUD of Lucy, and I felt like I had gone on this journey with her. Her voice as a narrator feels unbelievably genuine.

I adored the cast of characters in this one. Lucy’s family plays a huge part in the story, of course (also, yay for only children in YA who are super close with their parents! this was totally me growing up.), and I loved their relationship to their daughter and to each other. The people I loved most, though, were Lucy’s fellow counselors at Camp Daybreak. They were a wonderfully diverse group of people, and their love for each other made me so happy. They were fantastic friends to one another. I especially loved the friendships that developed between Lucy and Anna and Lucy and Keely. I totally want to be a part of their squad. Emery Lord’s ability to write friendships, in my opinion, represents one of the biggest strengths of her writing. She also excels at writing the friends-to-more romance… which brings me to my next point. I love that the romance in The Names They Gave Us, while completely swoonworthy, was not the main focus of the book. It was more like it was a result of Lucy coming into herself, as opposed to being the sole reason Lucy found herself. Ya feel? That being said, Henry Jones is totally a new book boyfriend of mine. Yay for nerdy trumpet players!! (Which also reminds me– I loved the role music played in this story. Lucy plays piano, and Henry plays trumpet.)

I already mentioned that this book addresses faith as a main theme, but Lord also addresses themes like friendship, family, dealing with change, and processing grief. I thought The Names They Gave Us explored these themes thoroughly and addressed them thoughtfully. The plot of the story is simple– it follows Lucy through her day-to-day life at Daybreak– but it’s written so well that you feel like you’re there at the camp with Lucy. This helped me connect to her as a character so much more, which is why I felt the full force of her emotions and her journey. Daybreak as a setting completely felt like a real place. It jumped off the pages of the story. Every person Lucy interacts with at camp, whether they be campers, her fellow counselors, or the adults who run the camp, felt so real and necessary to the story and to Lucy’s journey.

Overall, I think The Names They Gave Us is a masterful addition to YA contemporary, and I certainly think it’s a must-read. It cements Emery Lord as one of the most valuable voices in the genre, in my opinion. This story clearly comes from her heart, and that’s something that’s impossible not to pick up on as a reader. You won’t be able to read this book without falling a little bit in love with every character. I think the discussion contained in and the changes Lucy goes through will be relatable to everyone, teen or adult. To summarize my overall thoughts: GO READ THIS BOOK! And then come back her so we can cry about it together. 😉

Have you read The Names They Gave Us? If so, did you adore it as much as I did? If not, do you plan to pick it up?

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Madalyn is a 20-something musician and lifelong lover of reading. When she's not reading or singing, you're likely to find her drinking coffee, traveling, or buying more lipstick than one person could possibly need.
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12 responses to “The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord

  1. I liked The Start of Me and You a lot, but I’ve not read any of Lord’s other books. I wanted to try this one solely because of its beautiful cover – it’s so different compared to her other books’ covers. 😀 Usually I tend to stay away from books with heavily religious themes of characters, but I also love it when authors write characters that are religious. If that makes sense? I personally am a very religious YA, so I think it is AWESOME when authors feature very religious protagonists in YA lit. Because we do exist 😀 Great review, Madalyn!

    Have a lovely week. =)

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

    • This cover is really unique compared to her others! If you liked TSOMAY, I think you’ll like this one. It’s definitely the most similar in feeling to that one than her other books, in my opinion. And yes, that totally makes sense! I think it’s really great that there’s YA like this one out there that religious teens and young adults can see themselves in. 🙂

  2. Brooklyn Donnelly

    I love Emery Lord, I am so excited about this. I’ve been hanging out for some reviews. I’m so glad you liked it!

  3. I am so excited to get to this one after reading When We Collided and loving it earlier this year. It is on my priority list for this month. It sounds like such a lovely book (plus that cover!!) Wonderful review!!

  4. I’ve never read anything by this author, but this seems like one I need to queue up for when I need a good contemporary audiobook! (*hopes it’s available as an audiobook*) The religious plot points do concern me a little, but it sounds like it worked for you! Great review!

    Tracy @ Cornerfolds

  5. Yay! I’m thrilled that you loved this one, Madalyn. I loved the discussions about the faith here too. I totally agree that it was done really well and not at all preachy, which was one of my concerns going in. Yes to all the friendship, romance and family aspects too. They definitely felt very realistic to me as well.
    Wonderful review, Madalyn! 🙂

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