“Everything looks like a painting: blue sky, white house, bright flowers. How can the world look so perfect when I feel so broken?”Claire Legrand, Some Kind of Happiness
Title: Some Kind of Happiness
Author: Claire Legrand
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Mystery, Middle Grade
Pages: 400 (Paperback)
Published: May 17th, 2016
My Rating: ★★★★★
Read: 7/25/2023 – 7/30/2023
I definitely did not expect to like a middle-grade book as much as I loved this one. What I wouldn’t have given to come across a book like this when I was a preteen. As I read, I felt I’d reverted back to my younger self, screaming, “This person gets it!!!”
Finley is silently struggling with anxiety and depression disorders, unable (and unwilling) to put a name to the feelings that she calls ‘blue days’. On top of this, her parents are on the brink of divorce. In a last attempt to salvage their marriage, they send Finley to her grandparents’ house for the summer. She’s never met them before nor the rest of her dad’s family. They don’t even speak about them. She wonders why now they’ve decided to make the introduction all while wondering if she is the reason her family is falling apart.
Finley’s only refuge is her notebook and writing stories about the Everwood. Once she arrives at her grandparents’, she quickly discovers the forest behind their house resembles the Everwood and soon deems it so. Reluctantly at first, she invites her cousins into the world she’s created but is soon glad of the decision, feeling for the first time in her life that she has real friends. Her friendships then expand to the Baileys, the neighbor boys. Unfortunately, her and her cousins’ friendships with them must be kept secret at all costs. Harts never associate with the Baileys. Why? None of the kids know.
Stories of the Everwood carry on as well as a project to clean up the Bone House, a charred and abandoned house nestled in the forest that no one wants to talk about either. Finley is determined to unlock the mystery of the house and the three people who once lived there. Whatever happened, she knows that it has something to do with why Harts and Baileys never speak. Asking questions gets her nowhere but trouble so she takes it upon herself to do research. She begins to wonder if the mystery of her dad and grandma’s feud is also connected. In discovering the truth about the Bone House, she believes she will also discover why she’s been estranged (and possibly even be rid of her ‘blue days’).
There is so much to this plot but it flows and connects magnificently. If not for Finley’s age and the ages of the bulk of supporting characters, I’d consider this a YA. It’s such a good representation of mental health struggles. It’s especially impactful given it’s centered on an eleven-year-old trying to come to terms with her ‘differentness’ as she also describes it. I felt so connected to Finley even if a lot of it was in retrospect. I also could appreciate trying to navigate a large extended family and trying to memorize the unspoken rulebook. Given it’s geared toward younger readers, there’s no shortage of character growth going around. I appreciated that the adult characters learned lessons as well. Emotional, inspiring, and adventurous, it was such a lovely read.
Likes & Dislikes
What I liked:
- Finley’s mental health struggles were written in such a relatable way, especially factoring in her age and the fear that comes along with dark emotions.
- Great setting with slight elements of fantasy.
- The cousins. Aside from the twins, each of them has distinguishable personalities. I especially loved Avery.
- Good character growth.
What I didn’t like:
- Finley’s grandmother. I know books need antagonists but she made me so angry throughout most of the book.
- I’m sure reading this as an adult influences my opinion but the ‘romance’ between the kids was ridiculous at their age.
This book moved toward the top of my favorite reads this year. Right now I’m having trouble seeing what could top it. If not for the age of the characters, I wouldn’t even classify it as middle-grade. It read more like a young adult book with such poignant discussions about living with mental health disorders. This is one that will be staying with me for a long time.