After EliFall 2012 Fiction
Since Danny's brother Eli was killed in Iraq, his family hasn't been the same. His mother quit her teaching job and stopped seeing any of her friends, and his father never really talks to Danny (not that he ever did). Mainly, he just wants to talk at Danny about his grades and about how if he doesn't start doing something about them, he'll end up like Jim Pilcher, who dropped out of college and had to go to rehab until he started an organic farm. Danny, however, likes Jim Pilcher. Jim was one of Eli's friends, and Danny decides to work for him on the farm instead of going to summer school. He also keeps a Book of the Dead (another activity of which his father does not approve), putting Eli's death alongside the deaths of other people in history. That summer, he also befriends Walter and Isabelle, and finally starts to feel that his life is moving forward again.
This is a beautifully written and moving book about dealing with grief; although, like all good books, it is about many things, including finding and then losing first love, and discovering who one wants to be in the world. Danny's voice is by turns funny, sad, and thoughtful, and is always entirely convincing. The secondary characters, especially Isabelle's bratty younger siblings, are well drawn. Thoughtful young readers will appreciate this new novel.