Cassie’s whole world changes when her beloved older brother, Sef, goes to war in Iraq.
Before Sef even leaves, Cassie has nightmares about his demise. Once he’s gone, her family jumps at every phone call. To complicate matters, her father supports the war; her mother doesn’t. While her parents are preoccupied, her best friend, Sonia, inexplicably stops talking to her; her older sister, Van, tests out risky behaviors; and her developmentally delayed younger brother, Jack, becomes altogether silent. When a seventh-grade social-studies project leads her to a blog called Blue Sky, written by an Iraqi girl of similar age, Cassie starts to see the war from a different perspective. Blue Sky’s world is more literally torn apart—her city is destroyed, her family is terrorized, their home is often without electricity and running water. While Sullivan strives to raise difficult questions about American involvement in Iraq, some efforts come across as forced. Yet Cassie's first-person narration effectively captures the messiness of life in a loving family when outside-world events intervene. Through it all, Cassie discovers her own strengths and rallies everyone around her, just as Sef would have wanted her to do.
A compassionate portrait of a family struggling with painful changes, despite some heavy-handed moments. (Fiction. 11-14)