STARRED REVIEW
September 2020

Before the Ever After

By Jacqueline Woodson
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Jacqueline Woodson’s Before the Ever After places professional football’s concussion epidemic front and center.

ZJ had it all: musical talent, a solid group of friends, a strong, supportive mom and a famous football-player dad he adored. But that was before. Before his dad’s hands began to tremble. Before his dad’s memory began to fade. When his father is diagnosed with a degenerative brain disease caused by the multiple concussions he experienced on the playing field, ZJ must face the prospect of losing his father and the relationship he holds most dear.

Award-winning author Woodson tells ZJ’s story in intimate, compelling poems that slip through time. We see ZJ as a small child riding on his father’s shoulders, far above the fray of reporters and fans. We hear their heart-to-heart conversations, listen to ZJ’s dad muse on his love for football and watch as the cracks and fissures of memory loss, anger and confusion creep into their idyllic life.

A stirring, character-driven novel in verse, Before the Ever After doesn’t sugarcoat harsh realities but addresses them with considered care and optimism. Woodson is far too adept a storyteller to directly answer many of the questions she raises, but ZJ’s quiet resilience and the network of nurturing figures who surround him suggest a path lit by glimmers of hope.

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Before the Ever After

Before the Ever After

By Jacqueline Woodson
Nancy Paulsen
ISBN 9780399545436

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