I first heard about The Ship We Built this summer, but with how crazy my reading habits were in 2020, I forgot it was on my TBR pile. I was reminded of it when I was looking at the Michigan Notable Book Awards given by the Library of Michigan. And I am so grateful that I did!
Now, first off, this is not an easy book. The protagonist is in fifth grade, but the truths it tells will affect readers of all ages.
Rowan isn’t sure about much anymore. Having been dropped by their friend group for innocently saying that Sofie was cute, they pass the first days of school alone and afraid. On top of this, Rowan (who’s called by a different name to begin with) doesn’t feel like any name really works for them. Or any stereotype. Sometimes the things they like seem ok, other times they are the very things that will make the “weird” label stick. Home life isn’t any better, with a mom who tries to pretend nothing is wrong and a dad who pays a strange amount of attention to Rowan, in ways they don’t want to (or can’t) talk about.
With the friendship of Sofie, and through the act of writing letters (which Rowan attaches to balloons and sets free), Rowan is able to journal their way through a very defining year of their life.
The author includes an afterword that has helpline numbers for Children and Teens who are experiencing depression, suicidal thoughts, sexual abuse, and several other topics.
The Ship We Built is an important book that will break your heart, while also showing the resiliency of hope.