Daniel (E.) Anderson looks back on the summer he fell in love and finally came to terms with his soldier brother’s death.
After Eli died in Iraq, Daniel added his initial to his own name and began compiling a Book of the Dead, a binder filled with his research on famous deaths. Three years later, still angry at his brother for joining the Army, the 14-year-old still keeps his book. Relevant entries, ranging from the princes in the Tower to Isadora Duncan and the 9/11 victims, begin each chapter of this poignant novel. Danny’s father is detached and displeased by everything; his mother, silent and withdrawn. But in the course of an idyllic summer spent with the beautiful Isabelle and her younger twin siblings, visiting from New York, Danny comes to terms with his brother’s death, finds a new, true friend in his dorky, formerly despised classmate Walter, and discovers that working on an organic farm is something he’s good at and cares about. Danny’s nostalgic first-person narration includes interestingly quirky information as well as sweet moments. Middle school readers will see the inevitable end of this first love long before Danny faces it, grieving his new loss but grateful for his healing.
Far more than a summer romance, this is a tribute to those left behind. (Fiction. 11-15)