Monday, April 25, 2011

The Other Half of Me by Emily Franklin

Title: The Other Half of Me
Author: Emily Franklin
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Release Date: September 11, 2007
Date Read: April 13 - 15, 2011
Rating: 3/5 stars

Jenny Fitzgerald has been outside the huddle, trying to fit in to her sports-obsessed family. The only time she knows the score is when she's holding an egg-carton palette and painting on a canvas, but even then she feels as though something is missing.

Unlike her three younger siblings, Jenny knows her biological father only as Donor #142.

As Jenny's 16th summer draws to a close, she feels more alienated than ever. But then a chance meeting with gorgeous über-jock Tate leads Jenny to reach out to someone else who might know exactly how she feels. With Tate by her side, Jenny searches for a genetic relative in the Donor Sibling Registry and discovers that she has a half sister, Alexa. Jenny hopes their budding relationship will fill the gaps in her life, but when Alexa shows up on her doorstep for a surprise visit, the changes in Jenny's world are much bigger than she could ever have imagined.

I found an old ARC of this on my bookshelf a couple weeks ago and decided to finally read it. I was pleasantly surprised! I've been yearning for realism in my novels lately and this one of one The Other Half of Me's strongest points.

Jenny and Alexa were wonderful characters to play opposite each other. Jenny, the self-concious forgotten sister vs Alexa, the outgoing loved only child. I appreciated how Alexa filled a void and was able to see missed moments in Jenny's family life that Jenny had neglected to see. If Jenny had visited Alexa instead I'm sure the same would've happened.

Jenny and Tate's romance was particuarily realistic. Since the novel was told on a day-by-day basis with no missed time we were able to see their relationship play out over the first few days, a plot point many authors choose to skip over. I also liked how their romance wasn't full of declarations or angst, just simply two people who liked each other over summer holidays.

A few years ago I read a novel about donor siblings but I forget most of the details, so I'll consider this my first plunge into the topic. What an awesome story idea! Identity crisis is a common theme in YA literature but pairing it with sperm donation and the "unknown other family" takes it to a whole new level. It seemed so appropriate for Jenny to not really acknowledge it publically that much until Tate coaxes it out of her. The family reactions to Alexa were especially heart wrenching as I totally sympathized with Jenny's father when he felt out of place and "not enough" for his daughter. 

There were a few things I didn't like though. The ending seemed to come together too perfectly and sentimentally for my taste. I would've liked a bit more angst or sadness, something to counter all the happiness throughout the novel. I also would've liked a stronger comparison between athleticism and arts, not only during Jenny's identity crisis and Jenny v.s. Alexa, but as a social commentary for how teens today are judged depending on which they choose to pursue. 

Favourite Quote: "That's what the best part of life is, those days or minutes you can't ever frame or paint beforehand." 

Recommended: Finding Cassidy (Laura Langston), Donorboy (Brendan Halpin), Speak (Laurie Halse Anderson)

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