Author: Rob Stevens
Genre: Middle-Grade, Contemporary
Publication: February 5th 2015, Anderson Press Ltd.
Pages: 272 Pages, Paperback
Source: Thank you to Penguin Random House South Africa for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review!
Rating: 5/5 Cupcakes!
Stanley 'Carrot' Harris is ginger, tubby and definitely not cool. And he has a secret: he's adopted, and this makes him feel like he's never quite fitted in.
On his thirteenth birthday, he receives the one thing he's been waiting his whole life for: a card from his long-lost birth mother, asking to meet up. But Stanley isn't sure: what if he's a big disappointment to her? So he hatches a plan - and he's going to need a stand-in Stanley, someone who is handsome, sporty and God's Gift to Mothers.
What Stanley doesn't realise is he's about to have the most confusing time of his life . . . just who is the real Stanley Carrot?
I loved it. I absolutely freaking loved this book. It was heart-warming and charming and funny and hopeful and original and just utterly perfect in every single possible way. I wasn't expecting to love this book as much as I did and it far exceeded my expectations. It has most definitely earned a place on my list of top favourite middle-grades and I absolutely can't wait to read more from this clearly talented author!
Would the Real Stanley Carrot Please Stand Up? is about thirteen year old Stanley. Stanley is adopted and he feels quite insecure about that and often struggles with obdurate thoughts about whether or not his family loves him more or less than his little brother Bruno (who his parents miraculously had a few years after adopting Stanley) and whether or not his birth mother would be glad she gave him up as he isn't athletically gifted, nor is he considered "cool" due to his penchant for writing poems, having ginger hair, being slightly tubby and for being a sensitive soul. Stanley has always wondered about why exactly his mom gave him up and when, or even if, she'll ever get in contact with him.
And then it happens.
Stanley receives a birthday card from his birth mother, Emma, asking if he would perhaps like to meet up for a once-off meeting. And he wants to. He has a feverish longing to know why his mother abandoned him and he needs to know the answers to all those doubtful, persistent thoughts that fire through his mind daily. But the problem is, Stanley doesn't want his mother to feel relieved that she doesn't have to sit with a child that isn't gifted in the mainstream areas such as looks and sporting talent - he wants her to regret ever giving him up. So Stanley decides to advertise for a boy of around thirteen years of age who is good-looking, confident and "cool" to act as him when he meets his mother for the first and last time. However, things don't go to plan and things aren't all as they seem in this wonderful novel about acceptance, family, friendship and being who you truly are.
Like I said, I LOVED this book. The combination of the excellent plot, characters, writing and the themes that featured throughout, resulted in a spectacular story that will wrench at your heartstrings, bring tears to your eyes and laughter to your lips.
The plot was fantastic! I haven't read many adoption books and I loved how it brought some originality to the middle-grade/YA genre. I could fully emphasize with Stanley and imagine how disheartening it would feel at times to know that you're adopted and how you might often harbor feelings of being a misfit and an outcast and not feeling like you belong. I loved the whole idea behind Stanley hiring another teenager to be him and I knew it was going to lead to some intriguing things happening as well as complications, of course. I would absolutely love to see this made into a movie as I think it would look fantastic on the big screen! I didn't expect that twist at the end at all and I think it was fantastic how Stevens added it to the story and the irony in the situation.
The characters, ah, the characters were so delightful! I absolutely adore Stanley! He has such a sweet, kind disposition and he's artistic and funny and so thoughtful but he doesn't see any of this, he's completely blind to all the wonderful traits he obtains and instead thinks about all the things he hasn't got. I found this extremely sad because it's so true. None of us are capable of seeing all the wonderful things about ourselves, even when everybody else can. We can always list the hundreds of things we hate about ourselves in a couple of seconds but it takes us minutes to think of one singular thing that we love about ourselves. Stanley is a clear example of that. He's sensitive and can write gorgeous poetry and he respects people and he's so incredibly kind but instead he thinks about the fact that he's slightly larger than the "cool kids", has ginger hair and can't kick a football. He's courageous and decides to face the things that terrify him, he decides to run towards those challenges he used to cower from, instead of running away from them but he doesn't acknowledge his bravery. I just wanted to wrap him in a big hug and help him see his worth. I was so happy at the end when he finally started seeing his potential and realising how important he is. It made my heart smile. This whole book made my heart smile.
"I've spent too long watching life from the sidelines. Now it's time to get in the game."
The other characters were wonderful too, I loved his adoptive family. I loved his mom and dad and little brother, they were supportive and they were funny and caring and you could really see how much they really loved Stanley. There's a part in the book where the dad is telling Stanley about how, when he was sick in hospital, his mom would sit by him day and night and will him to get better and how broken-hearted she was when he had to leave her to start going to school. That part really brought tears to my eyes as you could clearly see just how much she loves and cares for Stanley. His dad was epic too and he made me laugh on several occasions, especially towards the end when he started showing an interest in rap music.
I loved Chloe and Aggie as well! Chloe is Stanley's sixteen year old cousin and Aggie is her best friend. I loved how kind they were to Stanley and how they tried to help him and show him just how wonderful and talented he truly is. I loved Chloe's character, she was a "typical teenager" but she had such a kind heart, both her and Aggie did, their personalities definitely shone through the pages. The part at the end with Aggie and Stanley and the rap, it was just so utterly perfect and I honestly thought that tears would be spilled. The last few chapters were absolutely magnificent and they gave me warm, fuzzy feelings in my heart.
"I've learned that families come in all sorts of shapes and sizes - like people - and there isn't a right or wrong arrangement."
I loved Isabella and Emma too. *Spoiler*I totally wasn't expecting Isabella to be Emma - that was so clever of Stevens to do! I absolutely adored Emma and she was so sweet!*Spoiler* I thought the author wrote Stanley and Emma's relationship in an honest way, there was some tension but there was mostly sweetness and I completely adored that. I loved their connection and I loved that they were able to get along after all these years. It was written beautifully.
The pacing and writing was perfect too. I never for one singular moment wanted to be torn away from this book. I would wake up early just to read it and start school half an hour later to read as much as possible, then reluctantly turn to my studies while I looked in feverish anticipation at the clock to see when next I'd be able to continue living in the enchanting story Rob Stevens had created. This book was addictive and my heart sunk when I saw there were only a few more pages left. In fact, I even reread the last few chapters twice again because I wasn't yet ready to release my hold on the story. I shall keep it locked in my heart, those precious 272 pages, even though I wish for it to have an infinite amount of pages so I could read it forever.
Would the Real Stanley Please Carrot Stand Up? was a heartfelt novel that featured doubts and fears of one that has been adopted and the insecurities that result from those apprehensions. It revealed the wonder of redemption and second chances, of belonging, of family and friends. It showed us that we all have our flaws and we all have our quirks but it's those beautiful differences that makes us so incredibly unique. I absolutely adored this book and I advise you to pick it up, as I guarantee that you'll most probably love it too!
I give it: 5/5 Cupcakes!