Novel: The Ethan I Was Before
Author: Ali Standish
Target Audience: 8-12; grades 3-7
Genre: Contemporary; Mystery
Publication Year: 24 January 2017
Setting: primarily in Palm Knot, Georgia; set in the 2010’s
A Favorite Quote: “Kids are strong,” he says. “Stronger than most adults think. You’ll be all right, Ethan.”
My One Sentence Summary: After Ethan experiences a traumatic event, his family relocates to Georgia where he meets Coralee whose adventures and friendship help him come to terms with his grief.
What I loved about this book: I feel like I never have enough mysteries to recommend to middle-grade readers, so this book is a great discovery. But it’s so much more than a mystery—it’s also a grief story with thoughtfully constructed characters who grapple with some of life’s most difficult questions. The rich cast of characters is believable in both their strengths and weaknesses. Each character—no matter how briefly he/she appears in the story—seems to have an entire back story and a fully developed personality. Ethan is extremely empathetic and his self-doubt and guilt are easy to understand, making him very relatable.
Themes: Forgiveness—most especially learning to forgive yourself; acceptance and learning to live with loss
Who should read this book: This is a great recommendation for any young reader who will appreciate an emotionally resonant story full of twists and turns. A good fit with fans of Bridge to Terabithia.