After Ever After
Jeffrey had cancer when he was a kid, and the treatments and the worry he and his family experienced have shifted to after-effects of chemotherapy and a feeling of being different from most of the other eighth graders. Jeffrey has always looked up to his older brother, but Steven left the country and isn't taking his calls. There's an "ultra-beautiful" girl at school who's paying attention to Jeffrey, and he has no clue how to deal with girls. Or math - which is awkward to admit to his accountant father. His best friend, Tad, who's in a wheelchair, makes a pact with him: Tad will tutor Jeffrey in math so he can pass the eighth grade state test and go to high school with his age-mates, and Tad will walk across the graduation stage.
This is a sequel to Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie, but the book makes sense even if you haven't read that. (But you should. You totally should.)
Like Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie, there are some humorous moments through tears here. There's a raw honesty about dealing with difficult things and Sonnenblick never shies away from them. It's a great story about the awkwardness of middle school, layered with the extra challenges of figuring out who to be After Cancer - even though the experience has defined so many of his early memories, and continues to affect his daily life, including his interactions with his family. Tad's struggles are also matter-of-fact, making both characters genuine people, instead of That Boy In A Wheelchair or That Boy Who Had Cancer. The book is both relatable and eye-opening, and the authentic details about dealing with serious illness invite readers to empathize with others' struggles without ever preaching or lecturing.
Some of the discussion about girls is mature for an upper elementary audience. It's a very realistic, funny and slightly tragic middle school story with an imperfect protagonist you'll remember.
" 'I said that if my face looked like someone had been firing yellow crayons into it with a rocket launcher, I wouldn't be making fun of how other people walk. I know I overreacted, but I was so mortified. I mean, I knew I limped, but I had no idea I looked so repulsive while I was doing it.'
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