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Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

*The Other Half of Me* by Emily Franklin- young adult book review  
The Other Half of Me
by Emily Franklin
Grades 10+ 256 pages Laurel Leaf December 2008 Paperback    

Jenny Fitzgerald has always felt like she doesn't fit in with her sports-loving, teamwork-oriented family. An artist in a family full of activity lovers, she doesn't like throwing balls - she'd rather paint. As she struggles with feeling leftout and disconnected from her mother, stepfather and half-siblings, confused and thrilled over attention from attractive Tate, and growing as an artist enough to be featured in an art show, Jenny has to decide whether to track down any relatives she might have from the biological father she only knows as Donor #142 through the Donor Sibling Registry.

When Jenny meets her half-sister, Alexa, she hopes that the pieces of herself she's felt is missing will be found, that she'll finally have a sibling relationship like her younger twin sisters instead of feeling so alone. Instead, when Alexa shows up for a surprise visit, Jenny has to deal with jealousy from her family and her own jealousy of Alexa. Her high hopes don't pan out as she realizes just how different she and Alexa truly are and comes to understand family isn't just about blood but something more intangible.

Alexa swoops in and takes Jenny's life by the reins - something that Jenny doesn't know how to deal with or appreciate - and the second half of the story goes in a straight line down the exact path the reader expects it to. Unfortunately, the tension simply evaporates, the only remaining source Jenny's unhappiness over the disappointment she's brought upon herself.

The Other Half of Me features an interesting protagonist: one whowas conceived through sperm donation. It's an ambitious attempt at a novel with a timely issue at its core, with messages of being true to oneself and a nurture-versus-nature vibe driven home toward the end of the novel by Alexa and Jenny's stepfather.

However, the book suffers from a painful predictability that telegraphs to the reader everything that's going to happen, taking away from any suspense or real-world implications the book might have had. All the characters other than Jenny and Alexa are flat, and the heartwarming moments that don't ring false are few and far between. The art side-story feels shoehorned in, but perhaps the artist talk could be accessible to readers who are looking for or sympathetic to main characters with artistic talent; much of the art commentary Jenny makes feels like it's trying too hard to be deep and ends up sounding cliched to readers who aren't artists. It doesn't feel natural to the narrative and bloats the text, therefore risking a reader skimming out of boredom when they're unable to connect with Jenny's vision.

The story of finding a half-sibling and connecting in order to feel a part of something bigger unfortunately plays it safe. The book ends in wish-fulfillment mode, with nothing lost for Jenny getting everything she wanted except a few tears and a little woe. The predictable plot and boring side-characters might be worth it for the chance to read a book with a a narrator who comes from such a unique place biologically. It's good representation for teens in similar situations and a good message to control expectations when dealing with people who are family by blood yet still strangers.
Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

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