Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Things a Brother Knows by Dana Reinhardt

Warning: the culminating scene will make you cry. Friends and family are stunned when Levi's big brother Boaz announces that, rather than heading off to the Ivy league school of his choice with his classmates, he is joining the Marines and leaving to serve in a war that Levi doesn't understand. Two years later, Levi is looking forward to Boaz's return and what he thinks will be the resulting restoration of his family, who have essentially been on pause since his superstar brother's departure. Someone who looks like Boaz shows up, but Levi realizes his brother is profoundly changed: he doesn't leave his room, he screams in the night, he won't ride in cars, and he is planning a secret trip using Levi's old atlas. When he makes a rare appearance to announce his intentions of hiking the Appalachian Trail, Levi knows it is a hoax - he has been snooping through Boaz's browser history. Levi sets out to reveal his brother's real plan, along with best friends Pearl and Zim (who lighten the story with comic relief and romance), and ends up discovering the depths of Boaz's inner torment as well as a host of definitions for the word hero. Ms.Reinhardt paints an uncompromising and unflinching portrait of war without taking sides, but it is her talent for writing unforgettable characters that turns TTABK into a must read. Don't miss Reinhardt's How to Build a House, either. Grade 8+