Rupp, Rebecca After Eli, 245 pgs. Candlewick Press, 2012. $11.70. Language: PG13 (52 swears, 0 ‘F’); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG.
After Danny loses his brother, Eli, due to a road side bombing in Iraq, his entire world collapses. Danny wonders whether there is anything meaningful or significant to be found in the death of his older brother who taught him “how to crack his toes, which finger to use when you’re giving someone the finger, all about bras, how to throw a football, what to do in a fight, and where babies come from and how to make sure they don’t.” Reeling from pain and bewilderment, Danny creates his own Book of the Dead, collecting stories about senseless deaths in order to make sense of Eli’s death. Set during one magical summer three years after losing Eli, Danny discovers new friendships with the beautiful Isabelle, a carefree spirit from New York who teaches him how to dance under the moon and listen to the earth’s heartbeat, and with Walter, the town’s brilliant outcast.
This is Danny’s journey to find hope and life in a world without Eli. A beautifully written text that realistically examines the pain and suffering that are a natural part of loss. The author effectively creates characters that are quirky and sympathetic, and Danny’s struggles will resonate and tug at the reader’s heart. While the topic is heavy and serious, the author handles it extremely well, using humor and irony. I also enjoyed the literary merit found in the book’s thematic development, symbolism, and literary allusions. While there are minor references to alcohol use, smoking, and sex, these are not glamorized or central to the plot or character development.
MS, HS - ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Patricia, Teacher