cover image Eli the Good

Eli the Good

Silas House, Author . Candlewick $16.99 (295p) ISBN 978-0-7636

In his YA debut, adult author House tells the story of a smalltown family reeling from the Vietnam War. The narrator, Eli Book, describes the summer of 1976, when he was 10 years old, with the hindsight and perspective that adulthood brings (“It's important that you know this: my mother was beautiful.... She must have driven the boys at the high school absolutely crazy”). Eli lives with his father (a traumatized Vietnam vet); his loving but distant mother; a rebellious teenage sister; and his outspoken antiwar activist aunt. The candid conversations between Eli and his best friend, Edie, underscore the turmoil in both of their households. House laces the book with references to Bob Seger and Happy Days , but keeps the focus on the family's crackling dynamics and Eli's struggle to make sense of them. There's subtle poetry at work in House's writing, and as the tension and summer months heat up (“The sun broiled on the sky, a living thing that pulsated and grew larger”), Eli comes to understand how love and forgiveness can overcome even the most deep-seated conflicts. Ages 12–up. (Sept.)