Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Before The Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson

Before The Ever After
by Jacqueline Woodson
Read by Guy Lockard
Published September 2020 by Nancy Paulsen Books
Source: audiobook checked out from my local library

Publisher's Summary:
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?

My Thoughts:
I didn't even look at the summary before I requested this book from my library. I only needed to know that Woodson had written it to know that it would be a book worth reading. 

You will have noticed that I read very few young adult books. It's not that the young adult books I've read haven't been good; they have for the most part. But, for some reason, they almost always feel like books written by an adult trying to write as a young person (which, of course, they are). Woodson manages, though, to write in the voice of a young adult while also writing beautifully lyrical novels. 

Before The Ever After is no exception; in fact, it is written almost entirely in verse. In reviews of Woodson's books (including mine), you will invariably see the word "spare." She is a master of saying so much with so little. Here in just over 170 pages, she gives us a unique father-son story that begins with a family on top of the world to a family facing an unknown, frightening future. ZJ's identity is wrapped up in being the son of "Zachariah 44" Johnson, football star. So when his father can no longer play football, ZJ wonders who he will be. 

Woodson sets her story just at the time that chronic traumatic encephalopathy is being diagnosed in football players. This book is a tough reminder for people like me, who are huge football fans, that it is a dangerous game that takes a huge toll on the players. It's not that I wasn't aware that that it's a toll that is also suffered by those players' families; but reading about it from the point of view of a young son who is losing not only his father but also one of his best friends, has me, once again, seriously thinking about whether or not I can keep supporting the sport. It's hard to imagine being a twelve-year-old who is watching his father disappear along with so many people the family has considered friends. It's hard to read about it, even when it's told beautifully. 

1 comment:

  1. I don't think I've heard of this one but I would also pick it just because it was written by Jacqueline Woodson. It sounds like a wonderful read, giving a good perspective to what it's like to live with a career sportsperson who's been in the game for years.