Jfic books rarely deal with sensitive topics but Kadohata's book Half a World Away deals with something that I have rarely discussed with other adults-adoption. I do not know how many couples enter into a relationship intending to adopt but I would love to see those stats. In this book, told through the eyes of young Jaden we meet a family that is just now coming to terms with Jaden's behavior. He has hard a hard time adjusting to life and has some weird behavior patterns for which he has seen several therapists.
Although his parents love him very much they don't feel complete and are determined to go Kazakhstan to adopt a baby. Jaden himself was adopted from Romania as a young child and he vaguely remembers his mother before she abandoned him. He claims not to love his parents and truth be told, his parents, or at least his adopted father may love him but seems not to like him very much.
Jaden realizes how charmed his life is when he interacts with locals. The driver, Sam is my favorite character in this book and I like his sly digs at American culture. In essence he shows Jaden that for all their wealth Americans sometimes lose sight of the simple things in life. The family traveled halfway across the world intending to adopt one child but due to the bizarre nature of the process that child ends up going to a German family. As it so happens after the family is shown some babies the parents and Jaden end up liking different babies. Both children seem to have special needs and I applaud Jaden's parents for even considering adopting them as many parents probably would not have done so.
This book is not a feel good book, it is very moody and deals with some difficult subject matter and emotions. Mature children would probably get into this book but it is so different from a lot of the standard jfic fare that is out there that I would not readily recommend this to patrons.