Finding Esme is a heartwarming story about growing up, and a fascinating read. Young Esme’s life changes when she discovers dinosaur bones on her family’s farm. She sees the bones as a message from her grandfather, whose loss she is still mourning. But when a rumour gets out that the farm is hiding something valuable, all sorts of people like reporters, researchers, and of course the neighbours, arrive in droves. Esme has to find a way to understand who has her best interests at heart, whilst still holding on to the memories of her grandfather. I loved the setting of this book, in rural Texas, because it is a setting so totally different from where I come from. I also loved reading about a bold female protagonist experiencing personal growth. Esme is courageous and loyal with a big heart.
Esme’s voice is strong, and from the beginning I was completely immersed in her world. At 12, she is on the brink of moving on from childhood. She is struggling to find herself and still coming to terms with the loss of her grandfather. She is navigating her way through some really tough life situations, in addition to the bone discovery, such as an absent father and a mother battling mental illness, and she gradually learns to follow her own instincts. There are lots of additional quirky characters that add colour, and a nice set of storylines that all come together and complement each other. The author adds a touch of magic and fantasy with Esme’s grandmother’s gift for “finding” or “seeing” things, something Esme has inherited. Esme is trying to work out if this is a blessing or a curse. While she is trying to make sense of everything, her best friend Finch tells a professor at a nearby college about the dinosaur bones she found, and Esme feels betrayed that her secret is now exposed. The book becomes a real page turner as we wonder if she will be able to forgive Finch for his apparent betrayal, and if her father will ever come back home. Most importantly, will Esme be able to save her family home from being taken away by the bank? Finding Esme seemed to me to be about understanding or finding your purpose in life and making difficult choices. The book emphasises the importance of family, friendship and loyalty and also deals with other key themes like loss, abandonment, betrayal. I think that the book is beautifully written and I would especially recommend it to readers aged 10 or older.
Elina F, age 12, Munich, Germany