After Ever After by Jordan Sonnenblick
At the age of five, Jeffrey was diagnosed with leukemia - lymphocytic lymphoma, to be specific. He was a lucky little boy: His parents and 13-year-old brother, Steven, were there for him every step of the way, and the community rallied around him. He was a lucky little boy: He survived.
Years later, Jeffrey's in remission, but reminded of his illness every day, thanks to the limp and other irrevocable marks left on his body and his mind by the cancer. Radiation and chemotherapy left him "a little scrambled up," making him "spacey" on occasion. Now in eighth grade, he instantly bonds with a new classmate, a girl who just moved to New Jersey from California. The second Jeffrey meets Lindsey, he knows she's his dream girl. Dealing with middle school (and trying to impress female classmates) is hard enough without having physical impairments, but Jeffrey has an unsinkable spirit. His best friend, Tad, also a cancer survivor, is less upbeat about his condition. The two boys have leaned on each other both in and outside of school since the fourth grade. Now, their last year in middle school will test their strength - physical strength, mental strength, and strength of character - over and over again.
After Ever After will make readers laugh and cry and feel. It will be a delight to fans of Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie, the book that introduced us to the Alper family, a book that I read, loved, and hand-sold like crazy the year of its release, and have continued to recommend ever since. After Ever After is a solid stand-alone story, so those who came upon After without having read Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie won't be lost, but they would be wise to read the equally-fabulous Drums to see how the story began. Instead of picking up the story right where Pie left off, Sonnenblick opted to fast-forward After Ever After to Jeffrey's eighth grade year and make him the first-person narrator instead of Steven, who was the protagonist of the previous story. Readers catch up with Jeffrey quickly, learning not only of his medical history and current health status but also of his elementary and middle school experiences. Likewise, we are informed of Steven's whereabouts - something I won't give away here, something that was another bold choice on Sonnenblick's part which ensured that this story was now solidly Jeffrey's - and what a great story it is.
"I can't walk too well, but when I'm on my bike, I can fly."
Go, Jeffrey, go.