Title: The Names They Gave Us
Author: Emery Lord
Publication Date: June 1st 2017
Lucy Hansson was ready for a perfect summer with her boyfriend, working at her childhood Bible camp on the lake. But when her mom’s cancer reappears, Lucy falters—in faith, in love, and in her ability to cope. When her boyfriend “pauses” their relationship and her summer job switches to a different camp—one for troubled kids—Lucy isn’t sure how much more she can handle. Attempting to accept a new normal, Lucy slowly regains footing among her vibrant, diverse coworkers, Sundays with her mom, and a crush on a fellow counselor. But when long-hidden family secrets emerge, can Lucy set aside her problems and discover what grace really means?
Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review!
Trigger warning for transphobia.
First things first, I requested this book a while ago knowing I would only get around to reading it a month before publication and, in that time, I pretty much forgot what it was about. I didn’t even bother re-reading the synopsis when I finally picked it up, but since I generally enjoy reading books without knowing much about them beforehand this was a lovely surprise.
The Names They Gave Us is not a cancer book. That was my initial impression and it’s the sort of impression you’d get if you read the blurb. Instead, the book tells the story of a girl named Lucy Hansson rather than the story of the girl whose mom has cancer.
I haven’t read any of the author’s previous novels so her writing was completely new to me, but thankfully it’s a style that’s really easy to follow. From the very beginning, you are able to grasp Lucy’s character through the first person narrative. I actually wasn’t sure if I liked her or not, but I definitely related to her on many levels. Firstly, Lucy is asthmatic and she actually uses her inhaler more than once throughout the novel so it definitely wasn’t just thrown in for the sake of it. Secondly, she’s religious. I wouldn’t call myself ‘religious’ but I could definitely relate to her struggle with her faith. I’ve also never read a book with a strong focus on religion before, at least not one on Christianity, so this was an aspect I really, surprisingly, enjoyed.
I also loved the summer camp aspect, which was most likely the reason why I requested the book in the first place. I’ve always loved the remote setting and activities associated with camps, not to mention the sense of community that comes with it. This book definitely delivered on those stereotypes, as well as adding something new. Daybreak isn’t your typical summer camp. Everyone who attends it, from the kids to the volunteers, are carrying some sort of baggage. For some, like Lucy, it’s a place to try and forget things for a little while. For others, it’s a safe haven. This book touches on a lot of issues; it’s not written in explicit detail, but it should be read with caution.
Overall, it was an enjoyable read, even though I did think the ending was inconclusive and slightly rushed considering the twists that were revealed. There is a little slow burn romance, which is surprising for a short contemporary, and even though I could see where it was going from the moment the two characters met there was little focus on their romantic relationship. Instead, the book was primarily about friendship and family – both heart-breaking and heart-warming at the same time.