Tuesday, December 28, 2010

'Heart with Joy' by Steve Cushman

Genre: YA but appeals to older adults
About the book (from author) :
In Heart With Joy, fifteen year old Julian Hale’s life is turned upside down when his mother suddenly moves from North Carolina to Florida under the pretense of running her parents’ motel and finishing the novel she has been writing for years.  While Julian has always been closer to his mother and wants to go with her, she tells him he has to stay with his father until the end of the school year. Six weeks after his mother leaves, Julian’s father decides to run a marathon.  Once Julian agrees to help him train, the two develop the sort of close relationship they’ve never had before.  Also, with the help of an elderly neighbor, who loves to spend her days bird-watching, Julian learns that the most important thing in life is to follow your heart.  And Julian’s heart leads him to a passion for cooking and a young cashier at the local grocery store even as his own parents drift apart.  By the end of the novel, Julian is forced to choose between staying with his father and going to live with his mother.

Heart With Joy is an uplifting coming of age novel about the importance of following your heart and trusting that it will take you where you need to go.

Why I wanted to read this book: I read a wonderful review of this book on Jan's blog, Eating Y.A. Books,and just knew that I wanted to get my hands on this one. A week later I received an email from the author asking if I would like to review a copy and I had to say yes. I love YA books where the main character is a young man...just not enough of those out there!!!
What worked for me:

  • I absolutely adored Julian. This is a kid who came out of nowhere and just stole my heart. I wanted to protect him, feed him, shelter him, listen to him, and tuck him under my wing to keep him safe from hurt.
  • I liked Julian's first though I wasn't so sure. he does come across as someone who doesn't have time for others. But as Julian gets to know his dad better, so does the reader. I understood him as a parent and rejoiced when he finally decided to let his son know who he really was as a person, not just as a parent. It's not often that an author highlights and delves into the complexities of a father/son relationship. I found this to be one of my favorite aspects of the story.
  • I've known many women like Julian's mom. Those that think they need to get away from it all and find themselves. She didn't mean to break her husband and son's hearts, and even though I honestly felt that she didn't see any other options for herself at the moment, I'm still on the fence with how I feel about her.
  • Julian's next door neighbor was an absolute godsend. She was exactly what Julian needed in his life and I love the relationship that developed between the two of them. Julian became a much wiser and more thoughtful young man under Mrs. Peters' gentle guidance.
  • As Julian's cooking really blossoms so did my interest in each of the recipes he tried out on his dad. I felt like I could cook also...he inspired me to try something new each day in the new year! His growing love for cooking was beautiful to watch unfold.
Recommend?  YES! YES! YES! The story is all about communication and having real conversations with each other. Too many families are busy with life and nonsensical things. We've forgotten how to just be in the moment and relish the birds singing or to be really in the moment when a loved one is talking to us. Julian was able to make some "real" connections with people in this story and it touched something within me that has made me refocus my attention on my son's when they're talking to me. They deserve to have me there....really aware and fully alive. This is easily one of my favorite books of the year!

My Rating: 5/5

Thank you to Steve Cushman for sending me a review copy. I was not compensated for my review. My thoughts on this book were in no way influenced by the author or publicist. They are my personal reflections based solely on MY experience while reading this novel.

© 2010, Staci of Life in the Thumb. All Rights Reserved. If you reading this on a site other than, Life in the Thumb or Staci's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.


  1. This sounds great! And I agree, not even young men in books! :):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):)

  2. This sounds really good. And I love the cover! It's always nice when a beautiful cover actually corresponds to a beautiful book!

  3. I know if you say it is one of your favorite reads of the year, it will be a great read for me as well. Thanks for the recommendation.

  4. 3 yes, oh..and I who thought no all the way through

  5. Great review Staci, I love your enthusiam for this book! This sounds like a great book. I'd like to read it after reading your rave review. Having a 12 year old, I can relate to the connection to boys. There aren't that many YA books with young men/teen boys as the main characters. I'll be looking for a copy of this one.

  6. It must be good to win such a high recommendation. That is unusual to have a young man for the main character.

  7. Terrific review, I am so glad you enjoyed this as much as I did. The characters were fabulous and the story so well constructed everything worked for me.

  8. " touched something within me that has made me refocus my attention on my son's when they're talking to me. They deserve to have me there....really aware and fully alive."

    That sentence alone has me wanting to read this book. Thanks for the review, Staci!

  9. This is the second review I've seen about this book and both have been very positive. I'm interested!

  10. This sounds like a book I'd adore! *sigh* another one for my wishlist which definitely has indigestion LOL. Thanks for the heartfelt review Staci!

  11. Wow, another 5 star from you. I've never heard of this one but I'll add it to the old list.

  12. Terrific review! I relished this book as well.


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