The Half-Orphan's Handbook by Joan F. Smith || Excerpt



For fans of John Green and Emily X.R. Pan, The Half-Orphan’s Handbook by Joan F. Smith is a coming-of-age story and an empathetic, authentic exploration of grief with a sharp sense of humor and a big heart.

It’s been three months since Lila lost her father to suicide. Since then, she’s learned to protect herself from pain by following two unbreakable rules:

1. The only people who can truly hurt you are the ones you love. Therefore, love no one.

2. Stay away from liars. Liars are the worst.

But when Lila’s mother sends her to a summer-long grief camp, it’s suddenly harder for Lila to follow these rules. Potential new friends and an unexpected crush threaten to drag her back into life for the first time since her dad’s death.

On top of everything, there’s more about what happened that Lila doesn’t know, and facing the truth about her family will be the hardest part of learning how a broken heart can love again.


 I sucked my top lip into my mouth and released it. “You’re grieving all over again.”


Another person with more than one bad thing that had happened to them. It seemed like that grief lightning handbook rule was right after all. I stared at my fingernails, trying to work up the courage to ask my bunkmates how to fix me. “How do you get over it?” I whispered.

Winnie and Madison exchanged a glance. “Even though it feels mountain-shaped, I don’t know that it’s something you can get over, exactly,” Winnie said. “Sometimes you’re going up. Sometimes you’re going down. Eventually you figure out that there are tunnels and that maybe you’re on one mountain of many, but no matter what kind of hiking boots or backpack you get, you’re still climbing a fucking mountain.”

Madison nodded. “It’s not something you get over; it’s some- thing you wade through. It just becomes one of your memories.” “Which bubbles at a pretty low burn for me,” Winnie added.

“A daily simmer. Like, while I feel like every day is pretty much the same without my dad . . .”

“I get really upset on anniversaries. My mom’s birthday, death day, holidays,” Madison finished.

“I can’t concentrate.” I traced the edge of my shorts. “I think about my dad constantly. I can’t sleep. My whole life took this massive turn without me asking for it. I didn’t get to say goodbye. To use your metaphor”—here I gestured to Winnie—“one second I had a mountain guide, and the next he’d just . . . evaporated. And I don’t even know why.”

“You don’t know why he did it?” Madison asked, her voice gentler than I’d ever heard it.

“No. And I’m positive it would help.”

Winnie leaned forward. “Your mom won’t tell you? Or does she not know either?”

“She knows.”


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April 6th, 2021 by Imprint/Macmillan
coming of age, contemporary, ya

happy reading,



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