Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

I didn't want to read this book because I was judging it based on the cover and the title. Ugh, no sappy books please.

There's a reason you are told not to judge covers and whatnot. Just read the damn book!

This was really a fantastic book and not at all what I expected. I expected a sappy bombardment of floral stuff but got a very realistic portrayal of the foster care system and what happens to kids who hit the magic age of 18. Here's a hint: it's not sunshine, roses and happy freedom.

Victoria is our main character who is emancipated from the foster care system on her 18th birthday. She's given a rent-free space for a limited time so she can find a job and start paying for rent and other necessities. No help besides the free room, no mentor, no nothing to get her heading in the right direction. So she heads in the wrong direction and chooses to plant flowers in her room instead of looking for a job. Eventually, she's kicked out and homeless with her flowers and the few possessions she has.

She does happen into an under-the-table assistant position in a flower shop and does well there. But Victoria is angry, mistrustful of everyone and can't stand to be touched. She's trying to survive but it's very difficult. She meets up with Grant, someone she knew when she was staying with Elizabeth, a foster mom. Elizabeth taught Victoria everything she knows about flowers and their meanings and Victoria uses that to communicate with Grant.

Sometimes I wanted to shake Victoria for her choices, but how can I do that when I grew up in a family and was loved? I couldn't possibly understand or empathize with her. Continue on the path with Victoria and it will break your heart but in the end, it will give you a little bit of hope that she will make it.

I read the author's interview at the end and found out about the LifeSet NetWork which was set up to help kids just getting out of the foster system find people to help. Not just financially, even though each each kid (I shouldn't call them kids but at my age people between 18-25 are kids) can set up a registry of things they need to get started which you can purchase for them. But it's a place for encouragement as well. Message boards allow you to chat with the kids and encourage them, cheer them on and give advice. I've already signed up and have been chatting away and helping where I can. I encourage you to do the same!

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