Narrator: Kirby Heyborne
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio on 2014-10-28
Genres: Adolescence, Family, General, Lifestyles, Multigenerational, Social Issues, Young Adult
Length: 4 hrs. 30 mins.
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A kid who considers himself an epic fail discovers the transformative power of love when he deals with adoption in this novel from Cynthia Kadohata, winner of the Newbery Medal and the National Book Award.
Eleven-year-old Jaden is adopted, and he knows he’s an "epic fail". That’s why his family is traveling to Kazakhstan to adopt a new baby - to replace him, he’s sure. And he gets it. He is incapable of stopping his stealing, hoarding, lighting fires, aggressive running, and obsession with electricity. He knows his parents love him, but he feels...nothing.
But when they get to Kazakhstan, it turns out the infant they’ve travelled for has already been adopted, and literally within minutes are faced with having to choose from six other babies. While his parents agonize, Jaden is more interested in the toddlers. One, a little guy named Dimash, spies Jaden and barrels over to him every time he sees him. Jaden finds himself increasingly intrigued by and worried about Dimash. Already three years old and barely able to speak, Dimash will soon age out of the orphanage, and then his life will be as hopeless as Jaden feels now. For the first time in his life, Jaden actually feels something that isn’t pure blinding fury, and there’s no way to control it, or its power.
From camels rooting through garbage like raccoons, to eagles being trained like hunting dogs, to streets that are more pothole than pavement, Half a World Away is Cynthia Kadohata’s latest spark of a novel.
Half a World Away is the latest book from 2013 National Book Award winner Cynthia Kadohata, and it’s new to audio format. In this book, an American couple adopts a Romanian-born 8-year-old named Jaden. Now twelve, Jaden is highly intelligent but he acts out. His abandonment issues intensify when his parents decide to adopt another baby. The trio goes to Kazakhstan to pick up the baby and it proves to be a life-changing experience.
Half a World Away is a short, but powerful book that covers adoption, family, culture, and love. The book is told from Jaden’s perspective. He feels detached from his family and acts out by starting fires, stealing and food hoarding. His therapist is helping him with different coping mechanisms, but the thought that his parents are adopting someone new makes him feel like “they weren’t satisfied with him.”
The trip to Kazakhstan doesn’t go as planned. The overseas adoption is not smooth sailing, and Jaden and his parents Penni and Steve feel the pressure to go forward all the same. The adoption process is covered in detail, and you see how heart wrenching it can be.
In Kazakhstan, Jaden ends up bonding with two unexpected characters. The gruff but lovable driver Sam takes Jaden under his wing. And a special-needs toddler named Dimash steals his heart. The trip helps Jaden process his own history with adoption and his feelings about his parents and potential new baby brother.
I listened to the audiobook of Half a World Away, performed by Kirby Heyborne. Heyborne was the perfect choice to bring this story to life. He conveys Jaden’s moodiness and matter of fact way of speaking. Heyborne uses different accents for the Kazakhstani locals, and I especially liked his voice for the outspoken driver Sam. I flew through this 4.5 hour audiobook. Check out a sample:
This was the first book I’ve read by Cynthia Kadohata, and it really touched my heart. Her words sneak up on you and hit you where it hurts. I’ll be listening to the award-winning The Thing About Luck (also new to audiobook format) next.