Half a World Away

by Cynthia Kadohata

Jaden was adopted four years ago. Now twelve years old, he’s been in and out... read more

Jaden was adopted four years ago. Now twelve years old, he’s been in and out of therapy for his serious behavioral issues and doesn’t feel any attachment to Penni and Steve, his “adoptive so-called parents.” Assuming they are adopting a baby because they’re dissatisfied with him, he arrives with Penni and Steve in Kazakhstan to discover the baby they thought they were adopting has already been placed with another family. Given a day to decide if they want a different child, Penni and Steve agonize before agreeing to take Ramazan. Meanwhile, Jaden meets Dimash. The preschooler can’t talk and has physical challenges, but latches on to Jaden joyfully. Dimash touches something deep and unexpected in Jaden, who is used to feeling anger or nothing. Fascinated with electricity, he has felt no current connecting him to anyone, until Dimash. The logistics of this novel are a little too neat when Penni and Steve decide to adopt both children, but its emotional landscape is achingly true, from the tension that Jaden’s behavior causes in his family to his distant, disdainful regard for his parents and others. By story’s end Jaden finds himself wanting to console Ramazan when he cries. It’s a far cry from loving the baby, but it’s a start, and even Jaden knows it. (Ages 9–13)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2015

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