Book Review: Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson

Before the Ever After

Author: Jacqueline Woodson

Publication Date: 01 September 2020

Genre: Middle Grade – Contemporary

Pages: 176

Publisher: Penguin Kids

National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson’s stirring novel explores how a family moves forward when their glory days have passed.

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?

I was blown away when I read Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson earlier this year, so when I heard about Before the Ever After, I jumped at the opportunity to read it.

A lyrical novel written in verse, this middle grade novel follows the life of 12 years old ZJ who is the son of Zachariah the professional football player.

The story starts off as ZJ reminiscing all of the amazing memories he has of his dad playing football and interacting with him and his friends. However, the story quickly devolves into the tragic personality changes and memory loss associated with CTE, which is common in athletes who endure too many concussions.

This story is eye-opening and heartbreaking, but what amazes me most is ZJ’s hope. This is definitely one of those books that isn’t age specific. We all have something to learn in these amazing words.

Thank you to Penguin Kids for providing a review copy. This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.

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