Book Review: Just South Of Home by Karen Strong

Book: Just South Of Home by Karen Strong

Published May 2019 by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers|320 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary

Cousins Sarah and Janie unearth a tragic event in their small Southern town’s history in this witty middle grade debut novel that’s perfect for fans of Stella by Starlight, The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing, and As Brave as You.

Twelve-year-old Sarah is finally in charge. At last, she can spend her summer months reading her favorite science books and bossing around her younger brother, Ellis, instead of being worked to the bone by their overly strict grandmother, Mrs. Greene. But when their cousin, Janie arrives for a visit, Sarah’s plans are completely squashed.

Janie has a knack for getting into trouble and asks Sarah to take her to Creek Church: a landmark of their small town that she heard was haunted. It’s also off-limits. Janie’s sticky fingers lead Sarah, Ellis and his best friend, Jasper, to uncover a deep-seated part of the town’s past. With a bit of luck, this foursome will heal the place they call home and the people within it they call family.

I really liked Just South Of Home!  It’s cute and Sarah and Janie have a lot of adventures.  I’m glad I read it!

Janie and Sarah were really interesting characters.  I wasn’t sure about Janie at first, but I would honestly probably act the same way if I were her.  I really liked Sarah and how much she loved science.  She and Janie are very different and they have their differences but they work it out and things definitely get better between them.

I really liked the connection to the history of Sarah’s town and I wish we saw more of it.  I feel like we only touched the surface, but with a middle grade book, I can see why it wasn’t focused on more.  I liked the connection there was to the curse, and how Sarah and her family tried to help the town move on.

A lot of people saw it as just history, but it clearly wasn’t.  Not for the haints who were still there, waiting to move on.  It definitely made me think of how important it is to remember history.  While some of the people there wanted to forget, remembering and acknowledging what happened decades earlier was the only way to move forward.

The family relationships were great, and that was really cool to read.  Especially the relationship between Sarah’s mom and grandma.  I kept forgetting that her grandma was in the book, because Sarah didn’t call her grandma, or any other common variation on it.  It took most of the book for me to remember that Mrs. Jones was grandma.

I think one reason why I like middle grade is that you see characters figure out who they are while still being to connected to their family, and you definitely see family connections in this book.

4 stars.  I really liked Just South Of Home, and there’s a really spooky element that works well with the setting and the history of the town.

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