Reviews for Already Published Books

REVIEW: The Girl and the Grove by Eric Smith


35059797Publisher: Flux
Release Date: May 8, 2018
Received From: NetGalley

Teenager Leila’s life is full of challenges. From bouncing around the foster care system to living with seasonal affective disorder, she’s never had an easy road. Leila keeps herself busy with her passion for environmental advocacy, monitoring the Urban Ecovists message board and joining a local environmental club with her best friend Sarika. And now that Leila has finally been adopted, she dares to hope her life will improve.

But the voices in Leila’s head are growing louder by the day. Ignoring them isn’t working anymore. Something calls out to her from the grove at Fairmount Park.


GENDER: presumed cisgender
SEXUALITY: presumed heterosexual
ROMANTIC ORIENTATION: presumed heteroromantic


TROPES: the chosen one
TAGS: young adult, contemporary, fantasy, adoption, black character, POC character, South Asian character, mythology, ownvoices
WARNINGS: mental illness (depression, seasonal affective disorder, anxiety, panic attacks), child abuse mention, cissexism/anti-trans phrasing, physical injury, slurs, racial slurs, ableism, vomiting, rape mention


The Girl and the Grove is a fresh take on a popular fantasy narrative–The Chosen One–while also depicting everyday contemporary life in such a way as has rarely been seen in Young Adult up to this point.

First, to discuss the contemporary elements! At its core, this novel is about adoption and finding a place where you belong, a place you can stay forever. The main character, Leila, and her best friend, Sarika, have been in the foster care system since they were toddlers, at at the start of the novel, Leila is newly adopted by the Klines. Eric Smith very adeptly illustrates the very real struggles Leila faces as she tries to accept and believe that her home with the Klines is permanent, that they aren’t going to send her back. Every page is filled with such poignant emotion, and it’s clear from the first that this narrative is something that’s deeply personal to Smith. Even without the knowledge that this is an #ownvoices story, it would be impossible to read this without recognizing Smith put his heart and soul into this book because it’s so vibrant and real.

Also, this novel features an amazing representation of teenagers and does a fantastic job of portraying them, their behaviors, their speech patterns, etc. in such a way that you can picture Leila and the rest of the teenage cast as teenagers you may meet in real life (or online). In addition to this, the book is not simply one continuous blog of text, but includes Twitter interactions, blog posts, direct/private chat messages, text messages, and more. These kinds of things tend to be play a big part in lives of teenagers, so it was really cool to see Smith include them in his novel. (I had a few minor issues with this, with text being cut off and such, but I believe that has to do with the ebook format I received from NetGalley.)

And now onto the fantasy elements! Going into the novel, I didn’t really know anything about the fantasy aspects, other than that Leila hears voices in her, which are unrelated to mental illness. I’d seen some hype on Twitter, but nothing that mentioned specific details. So it was a huge, but not unpleasant, surprise to me to find out that the voice Leila heard is a dryad! I loved the way the mythos this brought to the story mixed so flawlessly with the contemporary elements. The inclusion of this aspect of the plot felt so organic (see what I did there? Hehe) and made complete sense. (The mystical aspects of the story, especially involving the dryads, reminded me a bit of The November Girl by Lydia Kang, which has similar elements.)

In addition to all of that, I just loved nearly all the characters! Leila is, of course, amazing and I loved her passion for the environment, an interest that is very rarely seen in Young Adult and which I enjoyed seeing here. Sarika is the ultimate best friend, and all of us would be lucky to have one like her. Landon was really sweet and I loved how sensitive he was to Leila’s emotions, not pushing her to talk about her adoption when she became uncomfortable, and respecting her boundaries. Jon is a walking meme, a literal Dad Joke, and I enjoyed the humor he brought to the story. Lisabeth, I would’ve enjoyed seeing more of; it seemed like most of Leila’s parental interactions were with Jon, but the ones between her and Liz were precious and heartwarming. Also, I enjoyed the little bit of romance between Leila and Landon but was ultimately glad that it didn’t become one of the main focuses of the novel.

I personally do not have seasonal affective disorder, so I can’t comment on the representation there, but the anxiety and depression aspects felt very real to me.

Overall, this story was really wonderful and an enjoyable read, and I certainly recommend it.



Eric Smith is an author, blogger, and literary agent from New Jersey.

He Young Adult books include Inked (Bloomsbury, 2015), Branded (Bloomsbury, 2017), the anthology Welcome Home (Flux, 2017), and the upcoming novel The Girl & the Grove, due out May 2018.

His first humor book, THE GEEK’S GUIDE TO DATING, was published with Quirk Books in December 2013, and has sold into eight languages.

When he isn’t busy working on his own books, he works representing YA, sci-fi, fantasy, and quirky non-fiction with P.S. Literary.

You can find him on Twitter at @ericsmithrocks. You can learn more about his books, and his authors, on his official website.


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2 thoughts on “REVIEW: The Girl and the Grove by Eric Smith

  1. This sounds amazing! I have seen the hype on Twitter, but I didn’t know that much about this book. Now I definitely want to read it! I really like books that show how teenagers communicate through Twitter interactions, blog posts, text messages, and that kind of things. I’m really interested in seeing how this book handles that.

    Great review!


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