Trailing her orange suitcase, and a heart full of worry, thirteen-year-old Agatha is about to go home. She has been in and out of foster care for years now, but her latest new life lived with naval precision with Katherine, Lawson and their dog, Chief, has proved to be the salvation that Agatha needed. She has new friends, a sense of place, and space to breathe. But when the social worker says it’s time to return to her parents, her world comes crashing down. “Home” has always made her anxious and ashamed – and she can’t understand why now she is being forced to go back. Is it possible to find a way to love her parents without having to live with them?
I was so completely engaged in Agatha’s story right from the very first chapter of Every Thing We Keep. I found I just had to keep reading because I wanted to know what had happened between the sweet flashback at the start of the book, and the situation Agatha finds herself in for the most part of the book. Also, Agatha is such a sweet character and I fell for her immediately so I needed to read on to make sure she would be ok – there are some very nail-biting moments.
There are a bunch of characters to love in this one – I feel like the warmth and support of the people around Agatha help to make her story not too overwhelming for youngish readers (I think this is recommended for 9+). I loved seeing Agatha open up to and trust these people around her. As well as the characters themselves there were some really wonderful relationships at the heart of this story. In particular, I thought it was wonderful to see the relationships between Agatha and Katherine, and her blossoming friendship with Tully. There were some super sweet moments between Agatha and her parents – I liked the fact that this showed that she and her parents still loved each other deeply, even though their relationship was so difficult. I think its fantastic in middle grade books to get a glimpse into the fact that adults aren’t infallible, and that they also are sometimes unsure what to do, or need to ask for help. I liked that we saw this not only in Agatha’s parents, but also the relationship between Katherine and her neighbour as they help each other through their respective challenges.
Whilst there are obviously some heavy themes in this one (readers might want to check out more info for content warnings, in particular around foster care, hoarding, and loss of a child), overall it has an uplifting and hopeful feel, appropriate for the target middle grade audience (I’d recommend for upper primary and into YA). I’m keen to check out Walker’s first book, Unpacking Harper Holt, as well.
Let me know if you have this one on your tbr.
Every Thing We Keep by Di Walker
Out now from Scholastic Australia
Source: Sent to me by the publisher (thank you!). All views are my own.
Category: Contemporary middle grade fiction.
Themes: Family, friendship, belonging, grief, loss, foster care, mental health