Title: The Girl and the Grove
Author: Eric Smith
Category: YA Paranormal
Publisher/Date: Flux/8 May 2018
Teenager Leila’s life is full of challenges. From bouncing around the foster care system to living with seasonal affective disorder, she’s never had an easy road. Leila keeps herself busy with her passion for environmental advocacy, monitoring the Urban Ecovists message board and joining a local environmental club with her best friend Sarika. And now that Leila has finally been adopted, she dares to hope her life will improve.
But the voices in Leila’s head are growing louder by the day. Ignoring them isn’t working anymore. Something calls out to her from the grove at Fairmount Park.
I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This book has content warnings for mental illness/anxiety/depression/Seasonal Affective Disorder, depiction of panic attacks, child abuse (mentioned), rape (mentioned), ableism, racism, and death.
I absolutely loved this book. The writing style is incredibly strong, and I connected with the characters near-instantly because of it. Leila’s mental illnesses were relatable, and her struggles with fully accepting her new adopted family tugged at my heartstrings. Her new adoptive parents, as much as they struggled with Leila’s difficulties with referring to them as “mom” and “dad,” were very sweet and tried very hard to give her a good home. Her best friend, Sarika, is also amazing and lovable and I want her as my own best friend.
There was lots of diverse representation in this book, from Leila being Black/biracial to Sarika being South Asian to group home/adoption rep to mental health, and I really appreciated it. Leila’s Seasonal Affective Disorder was especially relatable for me, and I loved seeing a character use a light therapy box as I regularly use a HappyLight while I’m at home and it really helps me a lot.
The fantastical elements in the book worked well within the world within the book; Leila’s interests are largely environmentally-related, and the magic within the book segues from there really nicely. It made the whole narrative tie together in a way that felt true to the story. Though the story is very environmentalist it was written without feeling preachy or overbearing; rather, it’s very immersive as if you were getting lost in the forest itself.
Overall, this is a lovely book with colorful characters and a well-rounded setting that is easy to fall in love with. Those who love outdoorsy stories with realistic teenagers and just a dash of magic will love this.
Final rating: 5 of 5 stars