The Things A Brother Knows by Dana Reinhardt (2010)

“There’s a saying about the military that you go in a boy and come back a man.  But I’m pretty sure Boaz went in a man and came back a ghost.” (p. 61)

I almost didn’t read this book.  You have to understand.  I have piles of books; on my desk, under my desk, near my desk, on my bookshelf at home.  I suffer from too-many-books-too-little-time syndrome.  So I’ve slowly been weeding these unwieldy stacks into smaller, more manageable piles.  Sadly, this means that I don’t get to read every book that I want to, but the alternative are these massive, overwhelming piles.  And I just can’t handle it.

So, like I said, I almost didn’t read this book.

Boy, am I glad I did.

“I used to love my brother. 
Now I’m not so sure.” (p. 1)

Levi Katznelson used to adore his older brother.  He wanted to be like him in every way.  But then Boaz  shocked his family by telling them he would be enlisting with the Marines instead of going off to college like he planned.  When Boaz left, something happened to his family.  They fell into a pattern of waiting.  Three years of waiting, of holding your breath because you don’t know if the person you love is alright, is exhausting.  Now Boaz is coming home.  And despite a significant drop in communication from Boaz over the last few years, no one quite expected it to be like this.  For Boaz to be a shell of the person he once was.

The Things A Brother Knows is a deeply moving and timely story about family relationships, friendship, and war, with romance and humor thrown in along the way.  Levi’s character is realistic and complex.  He wants to help his brother but doesn’t know how.  He doesn’t know if he can accept that Boaz may never be the same:

“…I guess I’m still sort of trying to figure out who he is, like who he is now, and if that’s going to be who he’ll always be, and if that means we’ll all always be different, and if that’s the case, can that be okay.” (p. 179)

Though war plays a large role in this book, Reinhardt decidely does not make this a pro- or anti- war story.  Instead, she focuses on the effects that war has on people’s lives-soldiers, families, friends.  She helps us understand that the things happening are bigger than political agendas and more complicated than blanket generalizations about people and things we don’t understand.

I can’t say enough how much I loved this book.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Young Adult Literature

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