The Trouble with Belonging

A Novel

Young Adult - Coming of Age
376 Pages
Reviewed on 11/11/2021
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Author Biography

Magdalena Stanhoff writes contemporary novels exploring romantic love, friendship, and family bonds, while also dealing with the matters of personal values, identity, and sense of belonging in nowadays world. She initiated and led several long-term international projects promoting multicultural awareness and worked with children, teens, and adults from many different countries. She loves traveling and is vividly interested in how diverse cultures coexist, mix, and clash, and how it influences people's lives.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Tammy Ruggles for Readers' Favorite

The Trouble with Belonging: A Novel by Magdalena Stanhoff is an engrossing, character-driven young adult novel you will cherish for a long time to come. What happens when Chen Kehuan, an eight-year-old lone wolf, meets a little girl named Niki that changes his life forever? He never thought he needed anyone, and she needed someone to care. Is there such a thing as a love that was meant to be? What happens when that love is disrupted? She needs a protector, and he just may be the one she needs. Cut to several years later when the two are teenagers. Niki has family problems that are hard to escape, and Kehuan tries to help her with her life issues. But the only constant thing you can depend on is change, and change does happen again. What is she to do when he becomes her issue?

I love this story that is simple yet so profound. It may remind you of special loves you've had yourself--that childhood sweetheart you can't forget, or have even lived a lifetime with. Some loves seem to be predestined, and this is one of those stories. The characters are interesting and likable. Chen Kehuan is a brilliant Asian finding himself trying to adjust to Europe. Niki lives with childhood trauma, but is carefree in spite of it, who has an artistic soul. They say family isn't always made of blood. Some families are made by bond. And this is also a major theme of the story. The angst of the characters and storyline aren't overdone, the dialogue is natural and believable, and Stanhoff knows how to use sentimentality in just the right places without being saccharin. The author's style is personal and emotional; the characters are imperfect and realistic. There are messages of fitting in, finding culture, and discovering who you are and who your support systems are. The pace is perfect, and the notes of friendship and belonging ring out strongly. If you love smooth stories of characters overcoming challenges and finding a sense of who they are with themselves and one another, you will love The Trouble with Belonging by Magdalena Stanhoff.


It's a great love story first of all, but there are many other things going on, too: family problems, friendships forming and dissolving, people searching for their roots and path in life...
I think many of the side characters were really interesting, too, not only the young ones but also the adults.