Danny Anderson narrates this poignant and powerful story of loss and love. As Danny reflects on the summer of his fourteenth year, the reader learns that he was eight when the twin towers fell and eleven when his beloved brother, Eli, who was compelled to leave college to join the Army post-9/11, fell in Iraq.
Three years after Eli’s death, Danny is coping better than his folks. He has friends; he’s relatively popular even though he feels a bit of remorse at the relentless teasing of the geeky Walter by his friends. He has resigned himself to the situation at home, the shrine to Eli - his room frozen in time and totally off-limits, his mother’s catatonia, and knows he will never measure up to Eli in his emotionally distant father’s eyes.
Sure, he still feels the need to keep a notebook in which he records how a variety of famous folk died that he calls his Book of the Dead. Everything changes during that summer. It’s the summer that the sophisticated Isabelle and her rambunctious twin siblings, Jasper and Journey, move into the Sowers house and he falls in love. It’s the summer when he first stands up to his dad and takes a job farming with Eli’s best friend, Jim, who is a loser in Danny’s dad’s eyes. It’s the summer that he outgrows his old friends and finds a new one in Walter. It’s the summer when everything is possible.
Danny is instantly likable, introspective but surprisingly irreverent and even assertive. The voice rings true. This story unfolds slowly and through flashbacks. A patient reader will be rewarded with a rich story where a teen wrestles with his emotions realistically.
Chapters are named for the dead from Danny’s Book of the Dead and their circumstances relate to events in each chapter. The book is punctuated by humor. While Danny can be slyly wry, the eccentric, free-spirited twins, the earnest and philosophical Walter, and even Eli’s remembered advice provide most of the humor. My only quibble was with the somewhat tidy and sudden reversal of his parents. Still, the ending was a hopeful one and the journey was satisfying. Ages 11-14 (grades 5-8) 250 pages 978-0763658106
Recommended by: Brenda Kahn, Librarian, New Jersey USA
See more of her recommendations at: http://proseandkahn.blogspot.com/