Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Fiction, Realistic Fiction, LGBT, Standalone, Bad Family Relationships
Published: May 14th, 2013 by Amazon Children’s Publishing
Hardcover, 214 pages
How I Got This Book: Checked it out from my library
Why I Picked It Up?: A) Look at that cover! and B) I have been in a search for good LGBT literature, so I added this one to my list immediately!
Book Jacket Blurb: “Eighteen-year-old Simon Peters wants to stand up for the truth about who he is. His love for Stephen is unwavering, but does he have the courage to defend it when his entire church community, including his eldest brother has ostracized him? Trapped in a cashier’s job he hates, struggling to maintain peace with his brothers after their parents have died, and determined to look after his mute brother, Simon puts everyone else’s needs before his own. It takes a courageous act of self-sacrifice on Jude’s part to change both of their lives forever. Jude, who knew that when the fig tree in their yard began to bloom, it was his time to finally be heard and to set Simon free.” (-Goodreads)
My Review of This Work:
Sometimes, the book you pick up to read leaves you with mixed feelings when you are finished reading it. The Waiting Tree is one of those books for me. While I enjoyed certain aspects of this story, there were other aspects that hindered the likeability of this story.
We meet Simon at a very hard time in his life; he has recently lost his parents in a car crash, he and his brothers are struggling to make ends meet financially, and he was just caught making out with his best guy friend (which is a big no-no in small-town Lousiana). Now, his friend Stephen has been sent away to a rehabilitation center, and Simon is working a low-end convenient store job to help support his brothers. The Waiting Tree is a surprising twist on a coming of age story, about how to deal with extreme family dynamics and how to be a minority in a very righteous town.
As a main character and narrator, I really like Simon’s character development throughout this novel. When we meet him, he is overwhelmed with tremendous responsibility, a lot of pressure for an 18-year old. He has dropped out of high school to be a full-time care-giver to his mute twin brother Jude by day and a part-time convenient store clerk by night. Along with dealing with the dynamics of his family, he also has to deal with bullying and discrimination for being gay in a small southern town. While he does struggle, he also begins to accept his realities and become the person he wants to be, rather than the person everyone else wants him to be. This is the story of Simon coming to terms with who he is, but it is also about the sacrificial love you give for your family.
But there were aspects of this novel that hindered me from fully enjoying this story. For one thing, I feel like this was a bad family circumstance DUMP. Dead parents, dead-beat older brother, disabled younger brother…..I just feel like it was TOO much to try and deal with in one story. The dysfunctional family dynamics in this book felt very over the top, and I HATE feeling that way, because families are complicated and real and should not feel like a trope. But that is the feeling I got while reading this story, that this book was overloaded with dysfunctional dynamic tropes. And that honestly took away from the overall likeability factor for this novel.
By the end of this novel, the story had taken a turn that was both unexpected and kind of out of nowhere. And this turn was a bit unrealistic, too, which only added to the meeeeeh feeling. I just found that the combination of all of the plot angles and twists took away from the overall message this book was trying to convey. Yes, there are tender moments, and yes, there is some good character development, but unfortunately that is not enough to pull this story up from everything that is holding it back. And that makes me sad. But what can I do?
My Bookshelf Rating:
I have mixed feelings about this story. There were many elements that I really liked–Simon’s character development, his friendships, etc. But at the same time, I feel like every bad family dynamic circumstance was dumped into this family, which made this book just feel funny for me. Overall, I found this book to be mostly meeeh, but it was a flowing read and an okay story, even if it was a bit overloaded.
Love and M&Ms,