I happened upon this book in the library. The author name sounded familiar ... Jordan Sonnenblick (he wrote a book I reviewed three years ago called Notes from the Midnight Driver). This is the cover of the book I checked out:
Looks like a light-hearted boy-oriented funny book, no? When I opened the cover and read that it would be about a 13 year old boy whose world has been turned upside down by his younger brother and about drums and girls, well it seemed like a perfect fit to suggest to my oldest son (that is, if my oldest son were a reader... cough, cough). The age difference even matched that of my own oldest son and middle son.
Here is my favorite cover, although even this one doesn't alert you to pull out your tissue box:
This book was far deeper than I expected. It was most definitely boy-oriented. It was certainly funny. I cannot, however, say that it was light-hearted. Well, actually, that's not true. It was written in a light-hearted, whimsical way ... a way that sucks you into the story pleasantly before you realize that you have been sucker-punched by the reality of life. As Frank McCourt (the author's once high school English teacher and mentor) put it: "A brave book ... Jordan Sonnenblick carries it off with such charm and elan, you forget for a moment your heart is breaking."
So, why did I find myself weeping as I frantically turned page after page? The younger brother, with all his annoying innocent ways, is diagnosed with leukemia. This would be heart-wrenching to anyone, but then you add in my own experience with a sweet, spunky niece who battled the same disease and you can see why this book had me both lured and squirming to somehow get off the hook.
It was a wonderful book and a great resource to suggest to middle school students who might be dealing with the cancer journey of a sibling. It was interesting to learn that this book arose out of a need. The author, a middle school teacher, had a student who was quietly dealing with the intensity of life in a cancer devastated family. After searching for an appropriate book to recommend, he ended up writing one himself.
The book is clean, wholesome and full of emotional depth. I plan to recommend it to my 11 year old niece, Abby, who watched a similar journey with Amelia and may have felt the same emotions the main character expresses.