Becoming a Randal by Lauri Robinson

Becoming a Randal by Lauri Robinson
Publisher: Fire and Ice/Melange Publishing
Genre: Young Adult (14 – 18 y.o.), Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

When fourteen-year-old Samantha West and her younger brother, Tommy, are placed in a foster home, Sam feels as if she’s been thrown into a Hallmark movie, full of perfect looking people—actors. The only person not acting, is Spencer Randal, her sixteen-year-old foster brother who hates her. By way of a broken leg, getting hauled home by the cops, and a haunted house, Sam and Spencer each learn what it truly means to be a Randal—Do your best, don’t give up, set goals and work towards them, be a good person, and make things right whenever you can. However, just when Sam’s life has become as perfect as a Hallmark movie, she and Tommy are returned to their mother, where nothing has changed. As the cycle of living on the streets returns, Sam decides it’s time to make things right.

Life is like a roller coaster ride when you’re a foster kid.

The character development in this novel was fantastic. Not only could I describe the personalities of every major character in vivid detail, they grew and changed over the course of the plot in realistic and spectacular ways. They felt real to me. As much ground as was already covered here, there was still plenty of room for future growth if she decides to do that. I can’t stop hoping that Ms. Robinson will write a sequel so that I can spend more time with all of the wonderfully nuanced individuals in this universe.

I do wish more time had been spent on describing the process that Samantha and Tommy’s mother needed to go through if she wanted to regain custody of her children. Foster care is a complex system, and I think it would have made sense for the social worker to be a bit more forthcoming about how the case was going and what the next step would be. This was the only thing holding me back from giving a five-star review.

Some of my favorite scenes were the ones that showed Samantha’s adjustment to living in a quiet, happy foster home where everyone always had clean clothing and enough food to eat. The descriptions of the neglect and abuse she suffered when she lived with her biological mom were appropriate for this age group, but they were also incredibly sad at times. I totally understood why she was mystified by how nice her foster parents were or suspicious about their motives. The poor girl had been through so much. It made total sense that she’d react this way to simple acts of kindness, and I was glad the author gave this character the space she needed to accept her newfound, if temporary, stability.

Speaking of that topic, I adored the kindness that was woven into the plot beginning with the very first scene when the Randals warmly welcomed Samantha and Tommy into their home. There were countless examples of other good deeds later on in the storyline that always felt natural for the characters who were performing them. Reading this was like drinking a cup of hot cocoa. It made me feel all warm and cozy inside, and I eagerly kept going while I hoped that everyone would get the happy ending they so richly deserved.

Becoming a Randal was a heartwarming read.

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