cover image After Eli

After Eli

Rebecca Rupp. Candlewick, $15.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-7636-5810-6

Daniel, a wry and thoughtful narrator, looks back on the summer when he was 14, three years after his older brother, Eli, died in Iraq at age 22. Rupp (Octavia Boone’s Big Questions about Life, the Universe, and Everything) skillfully weaves Daniel’s memories of larger-than-life Eli and his lingering anger about his death with Daniel’s day-to-day challenges, including his dysfunctional family (Daniel repeatedly clashes with his father, and his mother is all but catatonic, continuing to mourn Eli); his frustrations with his popular but conventional friends; his attraction to Isabelle, a gorgeous and free-spirited newcomer to town; and his nascent friendship with school outcast Walter. Throughout, Daniel adds to his “Book of the Dead,” in which he documents famous and infamous deaths that seem tragic, senseless, or cruel. The pain running through the narrative is tempered with hope, humor, and resilience, offering insight into the anguish of those left behind. A rich cast of secondary characters (Isabelle’s bickering twin siblings are scene-stealers) is a powerful source of support for Daniel in a story that’s as much about self-knowledge as acceptance. Ages 9–12. (Aug.)