Part History, Part Mystery, Heartbreaking and Heartwarming

Summary:

Avery Stafford is the daughter of a powerful politician whose own law career is about to take off when she is having to put family first. Her father has cancer and her grandmother is suffering from dementia. Grandma Judy's memory moves back and forth through time, and she tells Avery about her "secret identity." Now curious, Avery decides to do some family research

What she learns is that Grandma Judy was born into a poor family that lived on a shanty boat. When her mother Queenie Foss was rushed to the hospital because of complications, police officers kidnap her other children and take them to Georgia Tann, who runs the Tennessee Children's Society Home. Tann ran the abusive orphanage and would charge exorbitant fees to place the children for adoption by wealthy families. She also changed the children's names. Eventually, Judy was able to find her sisters, but never her brothers.  


BTSYA / Teen Reader (16):
I found the book very entertaining. The book is a heartwarming story of love, betrayal, family, and staying true to your heart. It is part mystery, part drama. While Avery is researching her grandmother’s past, readers must also consider family bonds and what family truly means, as well as the unbreakable bonds of sisterhood. Avery is one narrator and the other is Rill, Judy's sister. Even though it is set in the 1930s and 1940s, the themes of discrimination against the poor, child abuse, and corruption are still real today.

Before We Were Yours has mature themes such as child abuse, hunger, discrimination, and devastating loss. The book is based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals, where Georgia Tann kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families. I believe it is only appropriate for older teenagers because of the mature topics discussed throughout the book.


Reader Enjoyment Factors:

This historical fiction mystery is a heartwarming story of perseverance that explores the meaning of "family" and will intrigue readers to learn more about Georgia Tann.

Content Awareness Factors:

The story is fictional, but the themes presented are very real: child abuse, hunger, and food insecurity, and discrimination. The Foss family suffered a devastating loss, and the idea of siblings dying may be painful for some young readers. There is also alcohol use and discussion of murder.


Educational Themes:

The Foss family is fictional, but Georgia Tann and the Tennessee Children's Society Home are not. Young readers will likely want to know more about this woman and how these types of situations could exist. 

Reading Level:
5.1
Recommended Age To Read By Yourself:
14 and Up
Recommended Age To Read Together:
13 and Up
Age of child:
Teen STAR Review Team, Be the Star You Are!™ . Reviewer's Age: 16
Purchase Recommendation:
Don't miss your chance to read this. Borrow it from the library

Title Before We Were Yours: A Novel
Author Lisa Wingate
Publisher Ballantine Books, Imprint Random House Books © 2017
ISBN 9780425284681
Material Hard Cover
Cost $28.00
Genres Family, Historical Fiction, 1940s & 1950s, Contemporary Fiction, 1920s & 1930s, Social Issues
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