Book Review: In Search of Us, by Ava Dellaira

in search of us
Image belongs to Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR).

Title:  In Search of Us
Author:  Ava Dellaira
Genre:  Young Adult
Rating:  4/5

In LA in the late 1990s, Marilyn is a pretty 17-year-old with a mom who has ambitions;  she expects Marilyn to make it big in Hollywood, so Marilyn can support them. But her mother never asks what Marilyn wants:  going away to college and becoming a photographer. With Marilyn landing fewer jobs, they soon find themselves living with Marilyn’s unpredictable uncle.

Marilyn is just biding her time, living for graduation, when her “real” life will start. Then she meets James, the boy who lives downstairs. James shows her how to live in the now.

In the present, Angie has a single mom, a dead father she never met, and no one to help her sort out her identity. With her brown skin and curly hair, she looks nothing like her mom, and she knows nothing about her father. Then Angie finds out her mother has been lying to her all along, and she sets out on a road trip to LA with her best friend, Sam, hoping to discover who she really is.

In Search of Us is an emotional story about family, love, and finding yourself. These two stories are entwined seamlessly, and I’m not sure which I was more emotionally invested in, Marilyn’s or Angie’s. Both feel like their mothers don’t understand them, and both want more out of life. Marilyn is struggling to break her mother’s hold on her, and Angie struggles to find her father in more than just a single old picture. Racism is a strong theme here, portrayed honesty and realistically, with a large helping of grief. I was in tears by the end, and this book made my heart ache, as well as being so vivid I felt like I was a part of the story.

Ava Dellaira is the author of Love Letters to the Dead. In Search of Us is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) in exchange for an honest review.)


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