I am a huge Jordan Sonnenblick fan, so I was prepared to like After Ever After, the sequel to Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie. But not this much.
First, the things that the students will love. Jeffrey, a cancer survivor, is heading into the 8th grade with flawed self-esteem, troubles processing math and walking because of the cancer treatments, a growing interest in a hot, new girl from California, and a best friend, Tad, who gives him endless grief. This hits so many of the issues that students find intriguing. Jeffrey ends up struggling with state tests, which kids today know far too much about, lies to his parents, and has difficulties with his relationship with Tad, because of challenges that Tad has to face. As with all Sonnenblick, I am tempted to quote half the book here, because his turns of phrase are just superb, and even though this is an essentially sad book, it has so many funny moments. Best of all, Jeffrey is not whiny or courageous or somehow perfect because of his battle with cancer.
What adults will like, and why this should win a Newbery Award (and I don't say that in my usual tone; I might again have faith in the Newbery if this won): someone dies, and there is a fair amount of introspective navel-gazing. But in Sonnenblick's hands, it works. It's not sappy and sentimental, but rather real and completely disarming. I cried at the end; the last book that made me cry was Townley's The Great Good Thing.
While this could be read without reading the first book, it's better to know the background. If your library doesn't have any books by this author, put DGADP, Notes from the Midnight Driver, and Zen and the Art of Faking It on your to-purchase lists immediately. Order two copies of each.
Sorry. Got a little excited. Probably should have given more of a plot summary. Check out the following:
Ink Splot 26
School Library Journal
The Reading Zone