Title: Just Like Me
Author: Nancy Cavanaugh
Synopsis: Who eats Cheetos with chopsticks?! Avery and Becca, my “Chinese Sisters,” that’s who. We’re not really sisters—we were just adopted from the same orphanage. And we’re nothing alike. They sing Chinese love songs on the bus to summer camp, and I pretend like I don’t know them. To make everything worse, we have to journal about our time at camp so the adoption agency can do some kind of “where are they now” newsletter. I’ll tell you where I am: At Camp Little Big Woods in a cabin with five other girls who aren’t getting along, competing for a campout and losing (badly), wondering how I got here…and where I belong.
Huge thank you to Sourcebooks and Raincoast for this ARC!
I wasn’t sure what I got myself into when I requested Just Like Me. I knew it was about adoption, culture and identity. What I didn’t know, was how much it would emotionally affect me in the end. Julia, Avery and Becca are all Chinese girls who have been adopted. While Becca and Avery still feel very close to their Chinese roots, Julia has other feelings.
In fact, Julia’s feelings are what emotionally got me. She’s adopted by parents who are Italian and Irish, and she recognizes that in no way does she look or act like them. She’s completely aware that they are not her birth parents, but she feels a closer connect to them then she does her birth family. When Becca and Avery attempt to immerse Julia into Chinese songs and games, she takes no part because she doesn’t feel that she is connected to her Chinese heritage.
Julia’s narration is both sassy as it is heartbreaking. She doesn’t feel like she belongs anywhere, and no matter how hard she tries, she struggles to really feel connected to anyone, until she meets Gina at summer camp. While Avery and Becca choose to stick together, Julia struggles with her own personal and cultural identity because she feels as there isn’t anyone else “like her,” meanwhile she is afraid to embrace all the parts of her that exist that make up who she truly is. This is a beautiful story, and while I don’t suffer from Julia’s problems, I can empathize her desire to figure out who she is and her own self-worth.
Just Like Me definitely has it’s funny moments, but it’s certainly a very raw story of understanding and figuring out where you belong. It’s a great story on what it means to grow up when you’re already unsure of who you are. Julia is a fantastic protagonist to follow, and the message this story presents really broke my heart at times. This is a lovely summer contemporary read that will remind you that regardless of age, you are always worthy of someone’s love.