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YA Review: Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson

Title: Before the Ever After

Author: Jacqueline Woodson

Year Published: 2020

Category: YA fiction (verse)
Pages: 176
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2021 Google Reading map) USA (New York)

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): For as long as ZJ can remember, his dad has been everyone's hero. As a charming, talented pro football star, he's as beloved to the neighborhood kids he plays with as he is to his millions of adoring sports fans. But lately life at ZJ's house is anything but charming. His dad is having trouble remembering things and seems to be angry all the time. ZJ's mom explains it's because of all the head injuries his dad sustained during his career. ZJ can understand that--but it doesn't make the sting any less real when his own father forgets his name. As ZJ contemplates his new reality, he has to figure out how to hold on tight to family traditions and recollections of the glory days, all the while wondering what their past amounts to if his father can't remember it. And most importantly, can those happy feelings ever be reclaimed when they are all so busy aching for the past?

Review: How can you go wrong with a Jacqueline Woodson award winner?! You can't. This book is just so well done.

Told in verse from the perspective of ZJ whose dad is a professional football player, the reader learns about ZJ's life with his best friends, his love for his parents, and how CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) is affecting his dad after too many concussions. This book isn't all sad, but there is definitely a low level of sadness that runs throughout. What is happening to his dad (well, the reader knows, but they don't), how it is affecting the family, how the "fans" are responding, and more. It's a personal look at something that has been played out in the news, but seems to have vanished from public dialogue.

I don't have much to say about this book except that it is very good, deserves the YMA Award that it won (Coretta Scott King Author Award (African American Author), and it was an honor to read. If you are interested in CTE, I watched a good documentary about this issue and Aaron Hernandez. I am not a football fan, but found this film interesting, informative, and devastating.

Challenges for which this counts: 
  • Diversity--Black author and characters
  • Popsugar--Shortest book, in terms of pages, on my TBR shelf
  • YMA--Coretta Scott King Author Award (African American Author)

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