Book Reviews

Book Review: The Means That Make Us Strangers

by Christine Kindberg

publisher’s synopsis

Home is where your people are. But who are your people?

Adelaide has lived her whole life in rural Ethiopia, where she and her family are the only white people she knows. Then her family moves to South Carolina, in 1964.

Adelaide promises she’ll return to Ethiopia and become part of the village for good. But until she turns eighteen, Adelaide must adjust to this strange, white place everyone tells her is home.

Then Adelaide becomes friends with the five African-American students who sued for admission into the white high school. As life in Greenville becomes more interesting, home becomes a much more complex equation.

Adelaide must finally choose where she belongs: the Ethiopian village where she grew up, to which she promised to return? Or this new place where she’s become part of something bigger?

The Means That Make Us Strangers is a beautiful, thought-provoking Coming-of-Age story, following Adelaide as she deals with adjusting to a new life, racial tensions, and growing up.

Kindberg did a great job of tackling the difficult topics related to racism. I found everything to be handled gently, and also to be very thought-provoking. While The Means That Make Us Strangers is definitely a fun book to read, it is one that will stick with you.

I really enjoyed the cultural aspects that Kindberg wove into the story and the struggle that Adelaide had with being torn between two cultures. It was also neat to have an “outsider’s” perspective of things we consider normal in America. There also were some fun historical details as well.

The characters were nicely developed, and all had distinct voices. I appreciated that we got to see Adelaide’s family and her relationship with her sisters since family relations are often absent in YA books.

The plot was nice, balancing all of the various threads related to Adelaide growing up, from her family dynamics, school, her longing for Ethiopia, to standing alongside her friends as they face challenges.

While some people might find the ending of The Means That Make Us Strangers to be a little sudden and perhaps unsatisfactory, I found it to be the perfect ending to the novel. Yes, it was a little more open than endings normally are, but it fits this Coming-of-Age story.

The audiobook was very well done. Brands did a nice job with the character voices, and also with the foreign words in the novel. It was very enjoyable to listen to.

Cautions: a few instances of swearing; one racial slur; racism and racist comments; light romance; one kiss; mildly descriptive violence (several African-American students are severely attacked)

**Please note that because I was listening to the audiobook, I may have missed a few cautions.**

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