When Daniel’s brother Eli is killed at war, Daniel considers the history of unusual fatalities to determine what makes a death — or a life — matter.
Some people die heroically, others accidentally. When Daniel Anderson’s older brother dies, he wonders which category Eli’s death falls into. In an attempt to understand, Danny creates a Book of the Dead — an old binder that he fills with details about dead people, how they died, and, most important, for what purpose. Time passes, and eventually Daniel is prompted to look up from his notebook of death and questions to make new friends and be swept into their imaginings. With gentle humor and genuine emotion, Rebecca Rupp examines the questions that arise following a profound loss and the moments that start life rolling again.
Rupp 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; 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... The pain running through the narrative is tempered with hope, humor, and resilience, offering insight into the anguish of those left behind. —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Danny’s nostalgic first-person narration includes interestingly quirky information as well as sweet moments. Middle school readers will see the inevitable end of this first love long before Danny faces it, grieving his new loss but grateful for his healing. Far more than a summer romance, this is a tribute to those left behind. —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
The tone of this first-person narrative isn’t maudlin or morbid, it’s smart and searching, and the well structured story quietly builds to a moving climax and a worthy, satisfying conclusion. —Booklist (starred review)