Friday, September 24, 2021

Guy Friday- What About Will

Hopkins, Ellen. What About Will
September 14th 2021 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Trace's brother Will is five years older than he is. He was a football player until he was involved in a bad tackle that left him with a facial nerve injury, anger management issues, and lots of pain. This lead to depression and deepened the rift between the boys' parents. Their mother fronts a band and had a decent amount of success, and their dad works security in a casino near their home in Las Vegas, and when the problems with Will got bad, their mother left the family and went on tour. It's been a year since the divorce, and Trace spends a lot of his time at home alone. His father works, and Will leaves without much explanation. Will does have some friends, and plays on a baseball team, but he misses his mother and the way their family used to be. When a new girl, Cat, joins the team, some of his teammates are against a girl playing, but after a rocky start, Trace realizes that he and Cat share a lot of interests, and also each have some family problems that they don't share with everyone. Cat's older brother has run away from home, and she's moved to Las Vegas with another brother and her father, who is a fairly famous former baseball player. Her mother is staying in California in case her brother comes home. Cat does well on the team, and she and Trace start a solid friendship. Trace is the only one who sees that his brother is becoming more withdrawn, and seems to be getting into drugs, based on his furtive actions, new friends, and frequent odd demeanor. Trace wants to tell his father, but is afraid that he will then fight with Will. He does confide a bit in neighbor Mr. Cobb, who served in Vietnam and tells Will about some of his experiences in the war, and about his career as a nurse, and encourages Trace to tell his father about his brother's behavior. Even though it escalates to the point where Will steals money from Trace and even takes his baseball glove that Cat's father signed, Trace is reluctant to share this, especially since his father is dating Lily, who works at the senior facility where his grandfather lives. Trace does reach out to his mother, but she brushes him off, promising to visit when it is clear that she won't. When Will's behavior puts him in a life and death situation, will Trace finally be able to let his family know what is going on, and will they be able to pull together to help Will get through?
Strengths: Opioid addiction is a horrible and growing problem in our society, but is more likely to touch the lives of middle school students in the way it touches Trace's. Whether it is a parent or an older brother, kids have to not only deal with the problem, but also go on with their schooling and lives. Hopkins does an excellent job of showing the effect that Will's actions have on Trace's life, and on his entire family. Will is good at hiding what is going on, and it is realistic that the father's work hours cause him to miss important signs. I love that Trace does have some supportive adults, like the fantastic Mr. Cobb, to help him. The new relationship with Lily, and Trace's reaction to it, is also realistically done, since he is against it at first but remains polite, then starts to enjoy Lily's positive personality, her cooking ability, and her labradoodle. It was interesting to see the mother's involvement from a distance. This book showed a hard reality, but wasn't completely without hope, which is all I ask for in sad middle grade books. 
Weaknesses: I know that Ms. Hopkins' style is novels in verse, and the form is occasionally justified, but it's not really necessary. This would have worked just as well with the line spacing as straight prose.
What I really think: I've always felt bad that middle school invited Ms. Hopkins to speak and then rescinded the invitation after they read her much grittier young adult novels, so it's interesting to see her enter the middle grade age group with Closer to Nowhere and this novel. She does an excellent job at laying out the genesis of addiction, the signs, the treatment that should happen, and the ways in which events progress in a world that is not perfect. This is a great choice for all middle and most elementary school libraries. Add this to the slowly growing list of novels where tweens are affected by addiction like Messner's The Seventh Wish (2016), Campbell's The Rule of Threes, Petro-Roy's Life in the Balance, Bishop's Where We Used to Roam, and Walters' The King of the Jam Sandwiches.
 Ms. Yingling

No comments:

Post a Comment