The Name She Gave Me (Hardcover)
A heartbreakingly beautiful novel in verse about adoption, family, friendship, and love in all its many forms, perfect for fans of Robin Benway and Jandy Nelson, from the acclaimed author of Three Things I Know Are True.
Rynn was born with a hole in her heart—literally. Although it was fixed long ago, she still feels an emptiness there when she wonders about her birth family.
As her relationship with her adoptive mother fractures, Rynn finally decides she needs to know more about the rest of her family. Her search starts with a name, the only thing she has from her birth mother, and she quickly learns that she has a younger sister living in foster care in a nearby town. But if Rynn reconnects with her biological sister, it may drive her adoptive family apart for good.
This powerful story uncovers both beautiful and heartbreaking truths and explores how challenging, yet healing, family can be.
Betty Culley lives in central Maine, where the rivers run through the small towns. She’s an RN who worked as an obstetrics nurse and as a pediatric home hospice nurse. She went into foster care at nine months old and was adopted three years later. As an adult, she was found by five siblings she never knew she had. Visit her online at www.bettyculley.com.
“Told in spare, evocative verse, The Name She Gave Me is a love letter to anyone finding their way home. Betty Culley’s characters have worked their way into my heart and will stay with me long after finishing their beautiful story.”
— Joy McCullough, New York Times bestselling and National Book Award-longlisted author of Blood Water Paint
"Wistful verse highlights small but telling moments throughout Rynn’s search... The author’s lived history with foster care and adoption gives the narrative nuance and authority. Emotionally complex and empathetic characters and a faithfully depicted rural landscape form an exemplary backdrop for this contemplative novel." — Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Poetic verse is deployed with a poignant beauty... The journey for Rynn here is as much about finding her birth family as it is about finally realizing she is loveable and loved by so many people. A bittersweet conclusion brings Rynn as much closure as she’s going to get with both her mothers, but readers will be grateful to see her looking toward a future of self-discovery now that the past has been put to rest." — Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
"Emotions run high in this novel-in-verse. [Culley] portrays these families in nuanced ways as connections are forged. Melodic verse is perfect for the poignant moments that cultivate both compassion and hope." — School Library Journal
"Variously scarred by past addiction, poverty, bad health, and bad luck, the well-drawn characters... largely prove resilient and kind. An adoptee herself, Culley writes with insight and nuance about biological families and those formed in other ways. The direct, straightforward poems effectively flesh out the characterization and are accessible to reluctant readers. Compassionate and compelling." — Kirkus Reviews
"The verse format really worked for the kind of straightforward way Rynn tells her story. Her story has the many layers that so many adoption stories have: unknown histories and people, feelings of loose ends and loss, sudden discoveries of family, complicated feelings, and new connections. The people she is surrounded by are so vividly drawn and unique. Rynn is so vulnerable, so clearly aching to fill what she’s always felt as holes in her life. This compassionate and quiet story is a beautiful and poignant look at family, belonging, and self-discovery." — Teen Librarian Toolbox
Praise for Three Things I Know Are True: "Culley’s compelling free-verse poems accumulate into a poignant story of a family that was already struggling and then transformed into something unrecognizable. Liv’s narration is touching, honest, and perceptive. A story of love and resilience as much as loss and grief." — Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (starred review)
"Introspective and inquisitive Liv's free-verse narration vividly explores the rift between her family and Clay's; memories of her late father; and the difficulty of surviving in her economically depressed small town. Above all, her spare, blunt lines convey her love for Jonah; her exhaustion and loneliness as her friends and overworked, overwhelmed mother grow distant; and the nuances of guilt and forgiveness. Liv's struggle with the "little animal / inside" her that yearns for attention even as she acknowledges that Jonah "needs everything" is piercingly realistic. A poignant, humanizing exploration of a sadly timely issue."
— Kirkus Reviews
"An emotional journey that follows a life-altering tragedy. Culley weaves carefully chosen details into a slowly forming tapestry. A tale that is both harrowing in subject matter and elegant in execution." — ALA Booklist
"A heartbreaking story about a topic that is too prevalent in today’s society." — School Library Journal
?"Eloquent narrative verse. Culley deftly captures the community’s nuanced responses and the heartbreak both families navigate as this devastating tragedy becomes a political battleground." — Publishers Weekly