Wayne Kovok is young, but already his life is divided into “Before” and “After.” In “Before,” his mostly-absent dad is a jerk, his mom doesn’t smile much, and Wayne has learned to spout interesting facts to distract his mother, to fill in uncomfortable moments and to dazzle pretty Sandy Showalter at school. When Wayne’s Uncle Reed is killed in Afghanistan, Wayne, his mother, and his retired drill-sergeant grandfather drive to the funeral. Wayne and his mother fly home and their plane crashes. Most passengers die and Reed’s flag is lost. Wayne and his mother survive, but “After” really begins when Wayne wakes up and finds an L-shaped scar across his face, his throat injured so he cannot speak, and Grandpa has come to live with them. Wayne learns much about himself and his family as he searches far and wide for Reed’s flag.
Author Karen Harrington writes books that are full of heart with great characters readers will care deeply about and stories that are memorable and important. This is no exception. Her writing is lyrical and difficult topics are deftly written. This warm, wonderful coming-of-age book deserves readership far beyond a middle-grade audience.
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers