Review: The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord

Saturday, May 13, 2017
Title: The Names They Gave Us
Author: Emery Lord
Genre: contemporary
Series: N/A
Pages: 400
Published: expected May 16 2017
Source: ARC via publisher
Rating: 5/5

From acclaimed author Emery Lord comes a vibrant, compelling story of love, loss, faith, and friendship.

Lucy Hansson was ready for a perfect summer with her boyfriend, working at her childhood Bible camp on the lake. But when her mom’s cancer reappears, Lucy falters—in faith, in love, and in her ability to cope. When her boyfriend “pauses” their relationship and her summer job switches to a different camp—one for troubled kids—Lucy isn’t sure how much more she can handle. Attempting to accept a new normal, Lucy slowly regains footing among her vibrant, diverse coworkers, Sundays with her mom, and a crush on a fellow counselor. But when long-hidden family secrets emerge, can Lucy set aside her problems and discover what grace really means?

Emotionally-charged and unforgettable, Emery Lord’s storytelling shines with the promise of new love and true friendship, even in the face of life’s biggest challenges.

The Names They Gave Us filled my heart with so many emotions over the course of its 400 pages. Both light-hearted and gut wrenching in turn, this is a novel that handily explores themes of grief, love (both familial and romantic), and friendship. There is a lot of honesty in this story; it pulls no punches and spares no feel. It's capable of making readers laugh and then cry, all within the same chapter. And while it is a longer contemporary at four hundred pages, this coming-of-age story is veteran YA author Emery Lord's best work yet and not a page of it feels wasted or unneeded. The Names They Gave Us is a heartfelt and finely-tuned story from a smart author; one that will linger long after the final page.

One strength of Lord's fourth book is that it is centered around a three-dimensional and engaging person: the fantastic and flawed main character Lucy. Her voice and inner monologue in The Names They Gave Us are immediately distinct and recognizably unique. Lucy is a well-rounded, imperfect, and interesting character from the start and she evolves and grows on a definite arc over the course of the book. It's easy to dismiss her as a "preacher's kid" from the outset but it soon becomes obvious that Lucy is more than a label and that she does a lot to earn the things she has. As a "PK" Lucy's also much more religious than a lot of YA characters, but she isn't close-minded because of it. Her faith is one both accepting and enlightening; while I don't share her beliefs, the author made it easy to slip into a life where that felt natural.

My heart was full to bursting after finishing this. Emery Lord has crafted something special with her newest novel. It was just... an honest and heartfelt exploration of teen life and love, in all its many forms and immediate feelings. Lord manages to keep to a great balance of sad and hopeful, humor and pain. Lucy shines in her trials and in her successes. The surrounding cast is real-world diverse and made of up great, inclusive characters that quickly endear and differentiate themselves. The Names They Gave Us boasts a cast of engaging characters, several strong plotlines, and two veeeery excellent ships  - there's something in it for every kind of contemporary reader to enjoy.


  1. 5 stars??? I do not read a lot of contemporary but seriously everyone I know has raved about this author. Maybe I just need to mix it up and give it a shot. :)

    1. Five stars AND it deals with faith.. as a staunch atheist I was not prepared for how much this would hit me in the feels.


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