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Review: Yonder - Ali Standish

Genre: Middle-grade historical

Published: HarperCollins, May 2022 My Rating: 5/5 stars

I have been a big Ali Standish-fan for years now, ever since August Isle first brought me to tears back in early 2019. She is, in my humble opinion, one of the best middle-grade authors working today, and has yet to write a single bad or even mediocre book. That record holds strong with her latest release; Yonder is Standish’s first historical middle-grade, and at the same time one of her most timely stories yet.

"Every hero has a story, but not every story has a hero. Even now, after all this time, I’m still trying to figure out which one this is; a hero’s story, or a story without a hero."

So begins Danny’s story, against the backdrop of his idyllic 1940’s Appalachian small town. Danny knows his story has at least two hero’s though: his father, who’s been deployed overseas to fight in the Big War, and his best friend Jack, who’s been his friend and protector since. Danny has idolized the older boy ever since he rescued two small children from drowning during the Great Flood, and relies on him for guidance in the absence of his dad more than ever.

So when Jack goes missing from their small Appalachian town, Danny is determined to find him. His first clue is the message “Yonder” that Jack left behind, a reference to a hidden magical town Jack once spoke of where flocks of rainbow birds fly through the sky and they’ve never heard of war. Other leads point in a much more mundane and less darker direction; one in which he may not have known Jack as well as he thought, and in which his town is much less idyllic than it first meets the eye.

Yonder is tale of friendship, challenging prejudice, owning up to your mistakes, and being the hero of your own story; in big ways or small. Thematically, there is a lot more to it than first meets the eye, and as Danny grows, and his scope of the world broadens, so does ours as the reader.

This is the power of middle-grade at its finest: a story for kids and adults alike that explores a difficult situation through understandable language and relatable characters. I couldn’t recommend it any higher.

Find this book on Goodreads.


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