Full disclosure, I’m not a fan of Christian fiction so The Names They Gave Us might resonate more with someone who likes that kind of thing, I don’t know. I thought I should give this book a chance as When We Collided was excellent. From the first few chapters, it showed promise. Lucy is the daughter of a pastor and her boyfriend is strict with his beliefs, their relationship is very chaste but this is alright by Lucy. When her mother’s cancer come back, he does that thing I’m suspect everyone must hate, when they say it must be what God wants and to trust in Him. Fortunately even Lucy is annoyed with this when she just wants to be angry and comforted.

For the first time in my life, I consider that I am being looked down on by no one, by nothing.

So I thought it might be about her doubting her faith in the face of tragedy, but the plot just limps along like a three legged tortoise. There are just too many threads and none of them fully developed. She usually spends summer with her parents at church camp but this year her mother wants her to do something different, to go to the “hippy camp” across the lake, where Lucy is sure they are all heathens. She is pretty judgy at the start.

Faith isn’t like getting a tan from the sun. You don’t get it from being around Christians.

I like summer camp stories but this part was just a bit boring. It goes from one camp activity to the next without tension or action. The camp is for kids who have problems, and the book goes through a ticky box process of including as much as possible but only superficially. There’s the trans girl, the pregnant teen and the black girl who makes Lucy realise her white privilege in a single sentence. It’s revealed that Luce’s mother was fostered so she feels she can relate to those kids. Hrm.

Some of the writing is lovely but it’s just strung together without any substantial plot. Lucy has a secret YouTube beauty channel which doesn’t serve much purpose other than being able to bond with others by doing their make-up. Through all her interactions Lucy learns a lot of life lessons, that maybe good relationships aren’t perfect, having friends is a good thing and that she has been lucky to have two parents who love her so much.

Because as much as I want to be the one crying, I want to be the kind of person someone can hold on to.

Whilst it was moving towards the end, the actual ending was abrupt. I know life doesn’t have neat endings but did it really need to end there? I just expected better from Emery.

The Names They Gave Us is published by Bloomsbury and is available now in paperback and ebook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.