Forward Me Back to You – Mitali Perkins

Forward Me Back to You
Forward Me Back to You by Mitali Perkins
on April 2, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Christian, General, Young Adult
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five-stars

Winner of the South Asia Book Award / School Library Journal Best YA Book of the Year / Kirkus Best YA Book of the Year / ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults / Amelia Bloomer Top Ten Book for Young Feminists / Junior Library Guild Selection

Katina King is the reigning teen jujitsu champion of Northern California, but she's having trouble fighting off the secrets in her past.
Robin Thornton was adopted from an orphanage in Kolkata, India and is reluctant to take on his future. Since he knows nothing about his past, how is he supposed to figure out what comes next?
Robin and Kat meet in the most unlikely of places — a summer service trip to India to work with survivors of human trafficking. As bonds blossom between the travel-mates, Robin and Kat discover the healing superpowers of friendship.
At turns heart-wrenching, beautiful, and buoyant, Mitali Perkins' new novel explores the ripple effects of violence — across borders and generations — and how small acts of heroism can break the cycle.

This book released a few years ago, but I never got around to reading it, partly because I knew it dealt with heavy topics. I finally read it this past week, and loved it so much that I wanted to share a review here. Forward Me Back to You is incredibly powerful, and it is also unlike anything that I have read before, with its unique characters, moving depiction of their struggles, and vividly realized international setting. The story addresses lots of different themes, but all of the story elements tie together in a satisfying way.

Powerful Themes

In this story, Kat is dealing with the aftermath of an assault, and Ravi is dealing with emotional struggles related to his adoption. They meet each other at church while Kat is spending the summer in Boston, and they both agree to go on a church service trip to India. The ministry that they serve with is very much inspired by International Justice Mission, as Mitali Perkins confirms in the acknowledgements, and the book deals with issues related to human trafficking and survivor care. The story is definitely heavy at times, but there is no graphic content related to abuse, and the author deals with all of these topics in an incredibly sensitive, realistic, and redemptive way.

I especially appreciated the plot line related to Ravi’s adoption. This book honors his deep attachment to and love for his cross-cultural, cross-racial adoptive parents and his profound sense of loss and mystery related to his birth mother. Many stories about adoptees oversimplify people’s experiences, making one of these realities cancel out the other, but this novel represents adoptee experiences in their true complexity. I’ve never read anything like this in a novel before, just in memoirs, and this is my favorite aspect of the book.

Recommendation

The novel has some pacing problems at times, in my opinion, and there are a couple of subplots that warrant less page time than they get, but I am very impressed with this book overall, and I would highly recommend it to people who enjoy novels with international settings, are interested in social justice topics, or relate to the characters’ life issues. This is also a wonderful book for readers who are looking for faith-driven novels, which are very rare in YA. The characters’ Christian beliefs and questions about faith are beautifully interwoven throughout the narrative without any of it being preachy, and while the faith content should not be a turn-off for secular readers, it will be very meaningful to people who share the author’s belief background.

I recommend Forward Me Back to You to both teens and adults. The only content concerns involve some occasional mild language, flashbacks to the assault, and ongoing thematic issues related to human trafficking. Because of the heavy topics and the characters’ ages, I would primarily recommend this to people who are in high school or older, but this novel would also be appropriate for some mature middle schoolers.

five-stars