Heart with Joy by Steve Cushman
Publisher: Blair, John F. Publisher
Pub. Date: September 28th, 2010
Age Level: 14+
Synopsis via Goodreads
In Heart With Joy, fifteen-year-old Julian Hale’s life is turned upside down when his mother suddenly moves from North Carolina to Venice, Florida under the pretense of running her parents’ motel and finishing the novel she has been working on for years. While Julian has always been closer to his mother and wants to go with her, she tells him he has to stay with his father until the end of the school year.
Six weeks after his mother leaves, Julian’s father decides to run a marathon. This surprises Julian because he has never seen his father exercise, but once he agrees to help him train the two develop the sort of close relationship they’ve never had before. Also, with the help of an elderly neighbor, Julian learns that the most important thing in life is to follow your heart. And Julian’s heart leads him to a passion for cooking and a young cashier at the local grocery store. By the end of the novel, Julian is forced to choose between staying with his father and going to live with his mother.
Heart With Joy is an uplifting coming of age novel about cooking and bird watching, about writing and pottery, and about falling in love and the sacrifices we all make. But ultimately, it’s about the importance of following your heart and trusting that it will take you where you need to go.
Heart with Joy is a wonderful story that is beautifully effective in its simplicity. It really shows the true value of remaining open to new friendships, understanding and connecting with those close to you, and finding that crucial thing in life that 'fills your hearts with joy'.
Julian is a mature, sweet, and realistic young man that I had no trouble falling in love with. I also loved how respectful he was; I'm tired of teen protagonists calling their parents and other adults by their first names unless they are told it's okay. Julian's relationship with Mrs. Peters was really one of my favorite aspects of this book. Mrs. Peters herself was such a sweet and lovely lady, wise in her age. She's the kind of woman I'd have loved to have had for a grandmother. I could easily see myself spending time with her in the same way Julian did. Like Julian, I've always found I get along with people much older than me better than I do with people my own age; this helped me relate to him more. Tia was a fun and witty friend/romantic interest. I really would have liked to have hung out with her and Julian cooking. Well except for the fact that I'd be a total third-wheel. And let me warn you, don't read this book on an empty stomach because all the delicious stuff Julian cooks will make you hungry. It's really got me wanting to cook more, something I'm sure mommy dearest is very glad of. As for Julian's parents, I thought they were very believable and well developed. Last, and indeed least, there was Simon, Mrs. Peters son, who was a total jackass. Nearly everytime he was around, I wanted to introduce his face to my fist.
One thing I loved about Heart with Joy was that while there was some light romance later on in the novel, it was mostly about Julian's growing relationship with his father and Mrs. Peters. It was nice to read a book where family and an old, but new, friend came first. Because Cushman didn't try and complicate the book with big plot twists, I found predictability wasn't really an issue. Instead of my mind wanting to jump ahead and figure out what would happen next, I was content to just enjoy what I was reading right then and there, letting everything come to me when and how it may.
At first, I found it odd that such a short book should have 52 chapters. However, I grew to appreciate it as it made it easier for me to tell myself, "Just one more chapter." This usually led me to another and then another. Also, despite being broken up into such brief chapters, Heart with Joy managed to flow beautifully from page to page, never feeling the least bit disjointed or choppy. Another thing, the numerous chapters and past-tense narration ended up providing a journalistic type style of writing. Julian's life was relatively routine and at first you might would think it'd be boring but it definitely wasn't. I really got to notice and appreciate all the finer and smaller details in his life, something the reader tends to miss out on in other books. It also allowed everything to develop and unfold in a well-paced manner. I absolutely loved this about Heart with Joy and found it to be the perfect technique to use considering this book's short length.
I actually found I liked the ending despite the fact that it left one big question hanging about without an answer to catch it. Surprisingly, this question didn't nag me. Instead, I accepted it for what it was and actually kind of liked that it was left slightly open ended.
Heart with Joy was a lovely, refreshing, and very realistic debut YA novel from Steve Cushman! While it was amazing, it wasn't in the sense that it automatically blew me away; it was something much more subtle that gradually sunk in the more I thought about it. I would highly recommend this novel to both teens and adults looking for a quick, heartwarming read. I will definitely be reading this one again and hope Cushman will continue to write more YA in future.
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Thursday, September 30, 2010
Heart with Joy by Steve Cushman
Posted by ~The Book Pixie at 9/30/2010 08:08:00 AM