How to grow a family tree by Eliza Henry-Jones
Angus & Robertson, 2020. ISBN: 9781460754955. 331pp.
(Age: 14+) Highly recommended. Stella's world is turned upside down when her Dad's addiction sees them evicted from their modest home, where the sister's stuff may occasionally go missing - also down to Dad's gambling. Exiled to the Fairyland Caravan Park with her parents and short, delinquent step-sister Taylor, Stella tells no-one in her friendship circle - not even Clem, her best friend. For an odd girl who reads nothing but self-help books, she has a small but supportive group of friends. Taylor seems a misfit by comparison but fixing people isn't Stella's only fixation. Her natural mother has requested a meet-up. Too many chapters later, she still hasn't opened the envelope or confided in anyone.
The Fairyland Park, is a close-knit community of fringe dwellers. The park manager mistreats his son Michael, Taylor sleepwalks, Mum (Judy) cries for her old home . . . everybody has problems - even those who don't complain. Stella strives to put her how-to information into practice with limited success but it helps her, to give her life direction.
When Stella's real mother, Kelly, invites her to stay, the apartment is luxurious compared to the cramped caravan, but Kelly is distant - stunted by her past experiences. Kelly's sister Mary, makes up for her birth mother's silence, introduces her to her curmudgeonly grandfather and slowly Stella learns why she was given up for adoption. Charlie, her placid step dad, saves the park mascot and 'therapy' dog, from a snake bite, but he is unable to heal himself. When a flood threatens the caravan park, Stella knows where she wants to be.
Stella is an eclectic young woman on the brink of leaving school and her friends are lively and believable. Clem will be adored for his constancy and restraint. Will his love remain unrequited? Typically, home is where the heart is and How to Grow a Family Tree will fill your heart and mind from the small seed of a girl's birth spreading outward into the community - some natural, some adopted and thankfully a heady mix of friends and neighbours. Themes: Bildungsroman.