Things That Grow – Meredith Goldstein – HMH Books for Young Readers – Published 9 March 2021
When Lori’s Dorothy Parker–loving grandmother dies, Lori’s world is turned upside down. Grandma Sheryl was everything to Lori—and not just because Sheryl raised Lori when Lori’s mom got a job out of town. Now Lori’s mom is insisting on moving her away from her beloved Boston right before senior year. Desperate to stay for as long as possible, Lori insists on honoring her grandmother’s last request before she moves: to scatter Sheryl’s ashes near things that grow.
Along with her uncle Seth and Chris, best friend and love-of-her-life crush, Lori sets off on a road trip to visit her grandmother’s favorite gardens. Dodging forest bathers, scandalized volunteers, and angry homeowners, they come to terms with the shape of life after Grandma Sheryl. Saying goodbye isn’t easy, but Lori might just find a way to move forward surrounded by the people she loves.
Things That Grow is a novel about family and grief, about growing up, falling in love with your best friend but not wanting to risk the relationship and staying quiet about your feeling. It’s also got quite a few gardens in it (I love fiction that includes gardens, not sure why but they always make a story more beautiful) and you could almost call it a road tip novel, as the characters venture on their journey, which doesn’t span too many miles, but still forces them to consider their relationships with each other.
Lori has lived with her Grandma for a few years. She was happy for the stability after living with her mother who would move them regularly, changing jobs and locations as often as she changed boyfriends. So when Grandma Sheryl dies, Lori is reeling from both the loss of her home and the woman who felt more like a mother than her mother ever did. Lori’s mother demands Lori move back with her, despite it meaning Lori will have to change schools right at the start of her senior year and leave behind her best friend, Chris. Lori stalls by insisting they honour her grandmother’s last wish – to have her ashes scattered in four gardens.
Anyone who has had to deal with the aftermath of losing a loved one will relate to Lori’s feelings. This book explores grief in an honest way. Lori isn’t sure how to deal with her feelings and often uses humour to cope with the situations she finds herself in – like trying to find a cremation service for a Jewish woman. So yes, while this book is about death, funerals (they don’t really have one), spreading of ashes and grief, it’s actually a funny, realistic, ‘oh my gosh, no don’t do that’, hopeful novel.
This book is also about relationships. Lori grieves the loss of the unique relationship she had with her grandmother. She also complains a lot about her mother and their lack of relationship. This changes slightly in the book, as they both come to understand and accept each other a little more but it wasn’t the transformation or understanding on Lori’s part that I was expecting from the story. Lori also spends a lot of time with her Uncle Seth. She idolises him, both as an uncle, a man in a romantic relationship (lgbt), and as a writer. However, during the course of their missions to spread her grandmother’s ashes, or should I say cremains, Lori learns a lot more about the kind of man he is and has to temper her expectations.
There is of course romance in Things That Grow. Lori has been crushing on her best friend Chris for years but never wanted to share her feelings for fear they would ruin their friendship and the creative partnership they have – she writes and he illustrates their stories). You can’t share a hotel room without somethings being exposed, so she and Chris have to work through their unspoken feelings. Readers will enjoy the chemistry and tension.
A heartwarming YA realistic novel with great character development make The Things That Grow an enjoyable novel.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction
Themes: Grief, death, ashes, relationships, writers, friendship, family, mother-daughter relationships, gardents, LGBT relationships, authors, grandmothers.
Reading age guide: Ages 12 and up.
Advisory: Sexual references. Occasional coarse language, f*** (8), sh*** (7), as***** (2). References to death and body remains.
Published: 9 March 2021 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Format: Hardcover, ebook, audiobook. 336 pages.