Author: Kate Hattemer
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult
Hardcover, 352 pages
Publication: April 19, 2016 by Knopf
Source: I received a review copy (arc) from the publisher in exchange for a honest review/blog tour.
Jesse lives with his history professor dad in a house covered with postcards of images of the Madonna from all over the world. They’re gotten used to this life: two motherless dudes living among thousands of Madonnas. But Jesse has a heart condition that will ultimately cut his life tragically short. Before he dies, he arranges a mysterious trip to Europe for his three cousins, his best friend, and his girlfriend to take after he passes away. It’s a trip that will forever change the lives of these young teens and one that will help them come to terms with Jesse’s death.I’m a sucker for road trip books and while The Land of 10, 000 Madonnas was a road trip of sorts, it was also a quest and journey of self reflection/discovery. Jesse Serrano knew he would never make it to college, and due to an atrial septal defect (hole in the heart) he passes away at the age of 17. He leaves behind his family and friends who are still grieving months after his death. But on the day of Cal’s graduation she receives a package from her late cousin. He planned a trip to Europe for her and her brother, their cousin Ben, his girlfriend and best friend. Wanting to fulfill Jesse last dying wish to take the trip, the four of them trek across Europe in hopes of finding Jesse’s estrange mother.
The Land of 10,000 Madonnas is told through multiple POVs, readers even get to see through the eyes of Jesse with excerpts from his journal he left Cal. I love seeing exactly what each and every character is feeling and thinking. What I like about books that take their characters on a trip is that I am able to see and learn about places I’ve never been to before. I can picture the quaint little village the group passes through and the mountain they hiked in Berlin. And I certainly hope to see the beauty of Europe one day.
Hattemer did a good job creating realistic and relatable characters. I thought that everyone was fully development and unique in his/her own ways. Cal is what I’d call your average teenager, there isn’t much that makes her standout but she isn’t someone that’s invisible either. Her brother, Trevor is always making jokes or light of a situation; he goes with the flow and never takes anything too seriously. I thought Ben was hilarious; he’s a perfectionist in everything he did. He’s a stickler for rules, super organized, plans everything to a T, School/History Buff…he’s knows everything except socializing in the real world. I like Ben, his idea of fun would include staying at home and researching. Lilian, Jesse's girlfriend is the girl that other girls want to be like but at the same time has a wall that keeps people at a distance. As for Matt, he’s like Cal, average, somewhat good looking but other than that unremarkable. I enjoyed most of this book, but I do have one complaint, which would be the pettiness between the two girls on the trip. Before the group boarded the plan Cal and Lillian were already butting heads. I mean, yes, I get it, they are both in pain and grieving but many times they forgot the real reason for the trip. They would constantly verbally attack and instigate one another (well Lillian more so than Cal). Thankfully it wasn’t the entire book, as we got towards the end; the girls had a better understanding of each other. This was exactly the point of the entire trip. Jesse wanted them to go on a pilgrimage for self reflection and so they can help each other cope and learn to live without him.
The Land of 10,000 Madonnas was a solid read. I thoroughly enjoyed it more than I expected. It is a story about love, friendship, family, self discovery, coming to terms with grief, acceptance and most importantly how to move on and live. The Land of 10,000 Madonnas was heartwarming, poignant and even had a touch of humor.