The Name She Gave Me – YA Book Recommendation

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Title: The Name She Gave Me

Author: Betty Culley

Publisher: Harper Teen, 2022

Ages: 11-15

Format/Genre: Novel in verse

Themes: adoption, birth family, fostering, siblings, names, identity, Maine, novels in verse

Reviewed from an ARC



When Rynn was born, her birth mother named her Scheherazade. It’s one of the only things Rynn has from her. Now sixteen, Rynn and her adoptive parents live on a small garlic farm in central Maine. Rynn’s father is kind and gentle but oblivious to Rynn’s mother’s temper and coldness toward their daughter.

Rynn has longed to know her birth family for years. She can’t legally open her adoption records until she turns eighteen, but that won’t stop her from searching on her own. She finds out that though her birth mother has died, she has a younger sister—who’s in foster care two towns away. But if Rynn reconnects with her biological sister, it may drive her adoptive family apart for good. (publisher)

Why I like this book:

Written in spare yet lyrical verse from two points of view, though mainly from our protagonist, Rynn/Scheherazade, this is an easy yet punch read. Easy because of the beauty of the language, choice of poetic form and fabulous flow of the narrative. Punchy because of the deeply authentically emotional story about an adopted teenager exploring the meaning of family, friendship, and love in all its many forms.

All the characters are nuanced as is the bumpy reality of family life be that adoptive, fostered, or biological (or a mix). At sixteen, Rynn/Sherry wants to find her birth mother and sister, has a terrible relationship with her adoptive mother and a close one with her old adoptive father. After some initial stumbling blocks to her research she discovers her birth mother is dead but meets with her biological younger sister, who has landed with a fabulous foster family. I love that layers of healing come not just through connecting with a lost sibling and uncle/aunt etc but through other relationships with old and new friends, and a family she babysits for.

The author adds many layers to this journey of self discovery, with the importance of names and the rural Maine location, as well as the intricacies of a teen dealing with an emotionally abusive parent. Renn is a strong, smart, non-snarky character who navigates the complexities of all these relationships with courage. While not autobiographical, the author has drawn on her own childhood for much of the emotional truth of this narrative.


International Soundex Reunion Registry (ISSR). is one of the world’s largest and oldest free mutual consent adoption reunion registries.
Find My Family Adoption Reunion Registry is a registry for adoptees and birth families that are mutually searching for each other.

Click here to see if your state has an adoption registry.

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