When survival seems worse than death.
Sixteen-year-old Dov Howard, a self-proclaimed emo kid, has gotten used to living in the shadow of his older brother, Brian, the local football hero. Enlisted in the National Guard in 2001, Brian suddenly finds himself on a peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan, and once again, Dov can’t measure up. Dov’s heartfelt and evenly paced first-person narration incorporates authentic dialogue and issues that matter to teens. He absorbs the problems of his fellow emo friends, braces against school bullies and wonders about new classmate Scarlett, who arrives with troubles of her own. After his family hears their worst fear—that Brian has been injured in an attack—they are relieved to discover that he survived the explosion. Dov is the first to notice the golden boy’s dark homecoming when Brian begins secretly drinking, experiences sleep disturbances, becomes depressed and exhibits other signs of PTSD. When his brother’s symptoms become life-threatening, Dov immediately takes control of the situation to get Brian the help he needs. Intermittent news headlines from the time foreshadow Brian’s downward spiral, as does Dov’s progressively ailing pet gecko. The author, also a neuropsychologist, emphasizes the strengths of talking through problems without being didactic.
Learning to focus on others, even in times of stress, Dov shows that bravery comes in many forms. (author’s note) (Fiction. 13 & up)