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A seventh grader suggested this book to me, but casually forgot to mention that it would rip my heart out and stomp on it by the time it was over. For Dan’s entire life, he has been Eli’s little brother – with eleven years between them and a distant dad in their lives, Eli was a brother, a father figure, a role model, and a million other things rolled into one. But after the terrible events of September 11th, Eli felt compelled to help… and eventually, he was killed by an IED in Iraq. When Eli dies, everything stops. Dan’s mom stops functioning; his dad stops caring; his world stops turning. Dan is stuck stumbling numbly somewhere in the stages of grief when he meets Isabelle, a girl that clears his eyes and forces him to feel. After Eli is certainly heavy, but it also felt unnecessarily slow. We spend the first ¾ of the book trudging uphill until the emotional climax, and then the remaining ¼ speeds downhill so quickly that I didn’t feel prepared for the end. Until that apex, the writing has a detatched, dreamlike feeling that made it hard for me to connect with the narrator; after it, it just didn't feel like there was enough time. But in a story about losing a loved one too soon, maybe that wasn't an accident. In my most professional opinion: sad sad sadsadsad with an extra helping of sad on top. #stabsummerreading