STARRED REVIEW
January 24, 2017

Growing through grief

By Ali Standish
Review by

All it took was one terrible moment, and 12-year-old Ethan’s life was irrevocably split into a Before and an After. In the Before, he lived in Boston, just a few doors away from his best friend, Kacey. In the After, Kacey is gone forever. To keep Ethan from bolting out at night to stare obsessively at Kacey’s bedroom window, his family moves to the tiny town of Palm Knot, Georgia. But life in the After is unbearable. Ethan, his parents and his older brother are crammed into a house with an unwelcoming grandfather, so tension at home is high.

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All it took was one terrible moment, and 12-year-old Ethan’s life was irrevocably split into a Before and an After. In the Before, he lived in Boston, just a few doors away from his best friend, Kacey. In the After, Kacey is gone forever. To keep Ethan from bolting out at night to stare obsessively at Kacey’s bedroom window, his family moves to the tiny town of Palm Knot, Georgia. But life in the After is unbearable. Ethan, his parents and his older brother are crammed into a house with an unwelcoming grandfather, so tension at home is high. At school, Ethan makes a tentative friendship with a girl named Coralee, who shares his penchant for adventure. But the sorrow of his past will not be vanquished.

Debut author Ali Standish creates a convincing world of menace surrounding Ethan by introducing a mysterious stranger in an abandoned house, inexplicable phone calls from Kacey’s father, suspicions about Coralee’s truthfulness and secrets surrounding Ethan’s grandfather. Through the development of these plotlines, Ethan gradually becomes more involved in the present than the past. Observing some of the adults around him, Ethan begins to understand the ultimate futility of a life destroyed by grief.

This novel compares well with other middle grade novels that deal with guilt in the aftermath of tragedy, such as Lisa Graff’s Lost in the Sun or Elana K. Arnold’s The Question of Miracles.

 

Diane Colson is the Library Director at City College in Gainesville, Florida.

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The Ethan I Was Before

The Ethan I Was Before

By Ali Standish
HarperCollins
ISBN 9780062433381

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