How to Grow a Family Tree (Eliza Henry Jones, HarperCollins)
Eliza Henry Jones explores addiction, family and identity in this insightful, compelling novel for young adults. Stella has always known that she’s adopted, but an unexpected letter from her birth mother arrives at the worst possible time: Stella’s adoptive dad has gambled their family’s savings away to the point where they need to move from their house into the local caravan park—Fairyland—which everyone knows is the hub for all local trouble. Stella is too ashamed of her new home to tell her friends everything that’s happening and, as the life she’s always known starts to unravel around her, she starts to lose herself to uncertainty. But Henry Jones is an extremely capable writer who doesn’t send her characters into the dark with nothing to bring them back. The things that Stella discovers about the Fairyland community, her family and herself help her to grow, and give her the strength to recognise that family, like love, can come in so many unexpected forms. The author’s own background in psychology and trauma counseling is evident in the book’s nuanced representations of addiction, trauma and assault. There are no one-note characters in sight, and their flawed perspectives and occasional failures to communicate make them intensely relatable. How to Grow a Family Tree is a complex and sincere reminder that life doesn’t need to be perfect to be beautiful.
Bec Kavanagh is a Melbourne writer and academic, and the schools programmer at the Wheeler Centre