This is a 2008 Caudill book, and was recommended highly to me by a person whose judgement in books I trust completely. It tells the story of an 8th grader who sees his whole life turned upside down when his 5 year old brother gets terribly ill. Steven is a caustic, intelligent boy who lives to play the drums, and not look like a dork in the eyes of the hottest girl in school, until this family crisis pushes him to grow.
This book sounds like a typically award-winning, depress you downer of a book, and in many places, it is certainly a tear-jerker, but it is also sometimes laugh out loud funny. The author has crafted a very interesting narrator in Steven. Steven is a wiseass, but he's the kind of wiseass that you can't help but like, because his view on the world is so very clear. Sonnenblick also manages to create a pathetic and sympathetic little brother who at the same time is sometimes bratty and annoying - and that is a feat for a five year old in a novel who is in danger of dying from leukemia. In the materials at the back of the book, we learn that Sonnenblick is a teacher, and his familiarity and frequent contact with children shows. The children in his book feel real - they have faults and strengths and depth. That said, I did have a hard time accepting Steven as an 8th grader. He seemed just a little too emotionally smart and self aware for an 8th grade boy. Then again my own children have not reached that age yet, and my only extensive contact with 8th grade boys pretty much happened about 27 years ago as an 8th grade girl, when I thought they were all stupid and irritating..... so maybe I am not giving them enough credit. That aside, this is a funny, touching, engaging book. I would not probably give it to anyone under 6th grade, but I think it would appeal to both boys and girls, and would probably make an excellent choice for a realistic fiction selection for children in middle school or junior high.