Review: Just South of Home by Karen Strong

I hoped to like Just South of Home, but I had no idea how much it would wrap me up into its world. Karen Strong is a writer to keep your eye on, because she’ll knock your socks off.

Just South of Home CoverTwelve-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.Goodreads

I received an eARC of Just South of Home from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Just South of Home needs trigger warnings for mentions of lynching, mentions of the Ku Klux Klan, mentions of church burning, ghosts (specifically haints), mentions of an unsolved murder, mentions of sharecropping, and discussion of racism.

Now I know that that’s a lot of trigger warnings, but don’t let that scare you away if you’re up for reading about the topics mentioned. Just South of Home deals with the racist history of the South in a way that I’ve never seen done before. It is heartbreaking and wonderful in a way that only a Black author could have handled this story.

I loved the way we got to see the Greene family grow together, each in their own ways. Sarah learned to be a little more outgoing and realize what was really important in life, while Janie learned that it was okay to let other people in. I loved seeing them get closer throughout the story, little by little, despite their differences.

As I mentioned, Karen Strong is an amazing writer who makes you feel like you’re in Warrenville, Alabama alongside Sarah, Janie, Ellis and Jasper – and the haints.

You want to pick a copy of this up for anyone in your life who reads middle grade books. You can do that through our affiliate links on Indiebound, The Book Depository or Amazon.


Title: Just South of Home

Author: Karen Strong

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Length: 320 Pages

Release Date: May 7, 2019

Rating: Highly Recommended

Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary Fantasy

Representation: Southern Black main character, Black woman author, Black child of single parent

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