Standalone. Candlewick Press (August 2012) Library
"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."
Daniel has always looked up to his brother Eli. During the "Education Days" he gave him a number of advice on life including how you always stick up for a real friend no matter who they are and how they are acting at that moment. Eli was the middleman, the glue, the peacemaker between him and his parents. He was talented, smart, funny, and loved. So when 9/11 happened it made sense that all around great guy Eli would want to help. But, even if Eli was the greatest brother, greatest friend, or even if he was the most popular kid around it doesn't mean that he was invincible and that he wouldn't come home in a box to a shattered family that for three years now has never recovered from his death.
"Eli didn't have to go to war. He volunteered. He did it on purpose. I thought how he probably didn't even think about what it would do to us, to me and Mom and Dad and Rachel, if he got killed. He went because he wanted to is what I thought. Because it was there.
So I knew how Clare Mallory felt back in 1924 about her dad, who went up Mount Everest and never came back down. A part of her loved him and missed him and would have done anything to have him back. But a part of her hated him for doing that to her. A part of her was really angry too."You couldn't say anything bad about Eli even if he was this football star who everyone knew and loved. It didn't mean he was a jerk. He was actually truly a great person and a great brother to Daniel. There was this no living in his shadow business. Daniel never felt his brother was anything but great. That's why it's been so hard for him and his family to let go. To cope Daniel created this Book of the Dead and each chapter somewhere he tells you of a person or people who died in this remarkable way like that climber who froze to death on Mount Everest and how he like Eli didn't think about what it would mean if he died well... according to Daniel. So I knew right away from that first chapter that this book was going to be a heart breaker tugging at my heart strings all the way to the end. I was worried it wasn't going to be done right. I've had some bad luck with books lately but the author was able to make me care for Daniel and Eli's story. Their bond as brothers genuine and was what cemented everything for me because if it wasn't there I don't think I would have felt so much connection to the story like I did.
Daniel has his coping mechanism with The Book of the Dead thing while his parents become extremes of themselves in a way. His father gets meaner and angrier. He was always the judging, pointedly-asks-questions type before but now he's even worse because the buffer that was Eli is gone. They see Daniel now but then they don't. He's invisible to them but he's not too. His mother who used to be this bright cheery person went into herself when her son died and is like this ghost that walks around waiting for her son to come home. It's all really sad and emotional. The author really turns on the feels throughout the book like with a little passage that described a time when Daniel complained about Eli being older than him and him being able to stay up late and whatnot but not the other way around. Eli just replied that he would always be older than him even when he's in his 90's. He could still smack him with his cane if he wanted to. It's all funny and cute and then Daniel takes us back to reality saying how back then they both never knew that while Daniel was in his 80's Eli would still be 22. I mean come on! That's just smart and evil on part of the author.
There was this other element to the book that helped Daniel cope with his brother's death and that was finding new friends - the right friends that will inspire him to change. He falls for this girl Isabelle who is the most beautiful girl he has ever seen. She's also very different from all those other girls. She asks questions like what type of month would you be if you were a month or what type of flower, animal, etc. The twins, Jasper and Journey, ask those questions more often than not. They actually say what the other twin will be and it's usually something rotten or mean. I instantly loved the twins when I first met them because they are so very entertaining. They are loud and rowdy but they aren't like other kids their age. I would love to read what type of saying that Jasper would have on his shirts like I'm the Evil Twin or Good Morning! - I See the Assassins failed. They are simply awesome and probably my favorite characters in the book. The problem with them is that they leave at the end of the summer. The word leave is the word you have to pay attention to because leaving is like what Eli did to Daniel.
There's one other character that I haven't mentioned yet who is talked about all the time even before we meet him. He's the classic "nerd" with a really high IQ and massive amount of knowledge. He's kind of like a mini computer with all the facts stored up in his head. "Mini" might not be the right word because he is tall and lanky. He's made fun of by the group that Daniel hangs around with. I really couldn't understand how Daniel could be friends with them. The author never showed how that possibly could be.
There were also some things toward the end that bothered me a little like Isabelle. I didn't see the appeal at the end. She was acting so frivolous with their friendship/relationship/I don't even know. It annoyed me. I like that not too much attention was brought up her and Daniel's "relationship" because it wasn't about that at all. The other thing was how Daniel's parents were at the end. It didn't seem so realistic. I guess it wasn't written write? It wasn't like it didn't end satisfyingly or anything. It just felt a little odd at moments.
Overall: I never wanted to read a book about 9/11 or even had a mention of 9/11. I don't know I am like that with historical events. But it just snuck up right on me. It had a great brother bond going on with another addition of great twin characters in the world of fiction. There were little odd moments towards the end that I didn't like but in the end I enjoyed reading Daniel's story.
More Info: For more info about Rebecca Rupp and her books go to: Goodreads. Bookish
Apparently according to Kirkus you might like the book below which I must give a try now. Let me know what you think if you've read it:
"The story of a young marine’s return from war in the Middle East and the psychological effects it has on his family.
Finally, Levi Katznelson’s older brother, Boaz, has returned. Boaz was a high school star who had it all and gave it up to serve in a war Levi can’t understand. Things have been on hold since Boaz left. With the help of his two best friends Levi has fumbled his way through high school, weary of his role as little brother to the hero.
But when Boaz walks through the front door after his tour of duty is over, Levi knows there’s something wrong. Boaz is home, safe. But Levi knows that his brother is not the same.
Maybe things will never return to normal. Then Boaz leaves again, and this time Levi follows him, determined to understand who his brother was, who he has become, and how to bring him home again. Award-winning author Dana Reinhardt introduces readers to Levi, who has never known what he believes, and whose journey reveals truths only a brother knows."