My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I received this ARC for an honest review.
This was a terrific story. It has a little mystery, a little suspense, and a lot of heart about friendship and learning to forgive.
Twelve-year-old, Ethan, and his family have left Boston for Palm Knot, Georgia, hidden jewel of the south, to live with his grandfather. They hope Ethan will have a shot at a normal life since what happened. His parents think removing him from the scene of the accident will help Ethan recover. Roddie, his older brother, is none too happy. He’s had to sacrifice a Boston baseball scholarship, and his girlfriend, in the move. With his silent treatment, Ethan’s sure Roddie blames him.
Living with Grandpa Ike in Palm Knot turns stressful for the entire family. Grandpa’s quite the handful, and he and Ethan’s mom aren’t getting along at all. Eventually, Grandpa reaches out Ethan, and they begin to share something that’s theirs only when grandpa begins teaching Ethan how to drive his truck. Grandpa shares a secret or two, but never allows anyone inside his bedroom. A grumpy loner since his wife died years ago, grandpa doesn’t speak much, and any time Ethan’s mother disrupts his stuff or way of doing things, grandpa’s disappears. Where to, no one knows?
But Kasey is all Ethan can think about night and day, best friends since early childhood—now gone. It was his fault. He did it. How can he live without his other half? They’d spent nearly every moment of every day together.
One spark of light in Ethan’s new life is Coralee, the whip-smart girl who sparkles with elaborate tales, he meets at school. She’s completely different from Kasey in every way. Coralee has her own troubles at home and a granny with dementia. She’s often called upon to help her and misses school. Now the other kids are warning Ethan to steer clear of Coralee. Can he trust her? Did she tell everyone his secret?
I love how every thread cinched into a satisfying conclusion. One of my favorite lines: “Sometimes a story is all you have. Sometimes that can be enough.”
THE ETHAN I WAS BEFORE may help readers see how to let go, when faced with a hopeless situation, and learn to forgive. Fans of Something About Jellyfish will enjoy the exploration of loss. Of course, I think everyone will enjoy this book. I spent many early years growing up in south Florida, and the swampy southern habitat engulfed me and sent me back. The imagery was quite vivid, without being distracting.
This is one of those books that soothes your soul, and you don’t want it to end. Such a great middle-grade story! Expected publication: January 24th, 2017 by HarperCollins
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