The Names They Gave Us blurb:
Lucy has the perfect summer planned out: perfect boyfriend, perfect job and quality time with her perfect parents.
Then her mom’s cancer comes back, and suddenly life makes no sense.
Before she knows it, Lucy finds herself agreeing to volunteer as a counsellor at a camp for troubled kids, where lives are more different from her own than she could have imagined possible. Here Lucy meets the dashing but mysterious fellow counsellor Jones, who will change the way she sees the world forever.
With tragedy hovering at the edge of Lucy’s life, this summer she must find out who she really is and what it means to love.
I am going to have a horribly difficult time reviewing this book. See, I loved it, and it was so poignant at a lot of points; however, I struggled reading about the main character’s faith, and that was for personal reasons (but I can dot point those later if required, and it’s not only because I am not religious now).
The story follows Lucy, who is about to go into her senior year, and is kind of judgemental. Actually, that’s probably unfair. Lucy is a 17 year old who has been brought up in a very religious house (as you’d expect as the daughter of a pastor), and she’s pretty naive about the tough things in life. Her boyfriend is also a walking middle-aged-crisis-waiting-to-happen, wrapped up in a pretty-boy bow. OK, I’m being particularly harsh now. However, the story gets better.
In terms of plot the story was good, a little predictable, but well thought out. Let me tell you now, if you don’t like stories that aren’t wrapped up neatly, you will not enjoy this ending (FYI, this is not for people who didn’t like Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell). Lucy’s mum was cancer and moderately blackmails Lucy into becoming a counsellor at the “hippie” camp (I told you she was judgemental). Turns out the “hippie camp” is really a camp for kids who have faced some difficulties in their life (all very different things as well), and Lucy befriends a group of other counsellors, and the story moves on from there.
My biggest issue was the constant struggle that Lucy has with her faith. It’s not that she struggles, or why she struggles, or that she comes full circle after bargaining and wishing or being angry. None of that bothered me, I went through all of it myself as a teenager. What annoyed me was that Christianity was a constant throughout the entire book (it nearly felt like it was being shoved down my throat). My second biggest issue was that Lucy couldn’t even tell you what the other religious symbols were in the ‘chapel’ apart from the Star of David. Lucy is a teenager and has the internet. She would have grown up with a LOT of rhetoric about the Muslim faith, and she refers to their most recognised religious symbol (the crescent and the star) as “a crescent moon with a dangling star that I think is for Islam”. Now, I had a very Christian upbringing. I was baptised protestant, but attended Catholic primary and secondary schools. I went to Mass on Fridays with my class, and Church on Sundays with my Nan. I attended Sunday School, Youth Groups, Church summer camps, Bible studies, narrated the nativity plays every Christmas and even dated the Minister’s son for a brief period. However, I also knew about other faiths: the similarities, the differences, their scriptures, their Gods. I don’t know if this was because I was graduating high school as September 11 happened, or if Australia was more culturally accepting. Whatever it was, this really annoyed me. I mean, clearly, because I NEVER rant for paragraphs this long. And it wasn’t just Islam, Buddhism is referenced as “a spoked wheel like you’d see on a ship”; and Hinduism was “what looks like a number three with an added curve” – which actually isn’t true because if you want to get technical about it, you’ve also got a semi circle with a squarish dot above it too. If you’re going to blast christianity at me for 400 pages and go through a crisis of faith, then you better know what the other world religions are. That’s all.
In terms of the characters, despite all above ranting, I really liked Lucy as a person. I thought she was going to go all Lara Jean or America on me and whine A LOT, but she didn’t, and she probably had more reason to. In fact, I found her relatively mature, especially when the break up with Lukas happened (the proper one).
I also really likes Jones, despite him being a bit one-dimensional.
However, my fave characters were Keely and Anna. They both have their own demons, but they are very them in their own ways. And by that I mean, I believed their motivations and how they acted. They were well thought out and developed by the author.
I would recommend this book to someone who isn’t adverse to talking about religion a lot. In fact, I would have recommended it to my 16 year old self. It’s also pretty sweet in some parts. In fact, despite all the above, I still liked it.