Reviewed by Jessa Larsen

Julian Hale is a normal fifteen year old boy, with a normal family and a typical life. That is, until his world turns completely upside down and inside out when his mother decides to leave him and his father and take off to Florida. She claims that the manager of her parent’s hotel has suddenly quit and she needs to take care of the establishment until a replacement is found. Julian has always been close with his mother and wants to go to Florida to live with her, but she insists that he first finish the school year.

Julian stays in North Carolina with his father who has suddenly decided he wants to train for a marathon. Julian decides to join him for his daily runs and begins to learn exactly who his father is as a regular person. He also ends up befriending his previously standoffish elderly neighbor. She teaches him to appreciate the little things in life as she shows him her love of bird-watching. All the while, Julian learns that he has quite the flare for cooking. He realizes that maybe his mother leaving isn’t the end of the world and there’s much more to the people around him.

Steve Cushman does a wonderful job at making a seemingly simple story into a very meaningful tale of family, love, and appreciation. You wouldn’t think that something so very ordinary would extend to the intricacy of relationships between a child and their parents, a relationship between neighbors, and relationship between friends.

Heart with Joy will tug on your heartstrings and really makes you feel for the characters as if you know them personally.

Rating: 4/5

Jessa lives in Utah with her husband, 2 sons, 2 cats, and 2 dogs. She goes to school full time as an English major with a focus in creative writing. She likes anime and reads books and plays video games in her moments of spare time.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Steve Cushman. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.