Not as We Know It by Tom Avery

51nxwq4fmtlNot as We Know It by Tom Avery, Schwartz & Wade Books, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-553-53509-9

Format:  hardcover

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a starred review) 5

Genre: magical realism

What did you like about the book? It’s impossible not to be drawn in by 11-year-old twins Jamie and Ned, and Ned’s struggle with cystic fibrosis. Ned is the adventurer and Jamie, the narrator, is the more cautious caretaker. The two are extremely close, but Ned is getting sicker all the time.  While Jamie tries not to notice this, Ned responds by becoming more eager for excitement and risks. When the boys find a strange creature on the beach after a storm, Ned convinces Jamie to bring it home with them. Fueled by their grandfather’s stories of mythical sea dwellers rumored to possess healing powers, the boys are drawn to the strange creature, whom Ned names Leonard. Ned and Leonard develop a strong connection, leaving Jamie to feel a bit like an outsider.  Jamie’s voice is powerful and authentic, and Ned’s voice captures that of a child who wants to live but who is also coming to terms with his mortality.  I particularly appreciate the fact that this book focuses on the relationship between brothers, as there are other novels on this topic which focus on sisters.  This is a very sad story but it somehow manages to be hopeful too. Highly recommended.

Anything you didn’t like about it? Although the twins’ father and grandfather were excellently drawn, I felt that their mother was a bit more one-dimensional and I would have wished for a bit more character development there. However, this could be because the reader sees her through Jamie’s 11-year-old eyes.

To whom would you recommend this book?  Read Alikes? Recommend to readers who do not mind shedding a few tears as they read, along with Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson and Kira Kira by Cynthia Kadohata. This book is also reminiscent of Five Children on the Western Front by Kate Saunders and The Desperate Adventures of Zeno and Alya by Jane Kelley.

Who should buy this book? Middle schools and public libraries should consider buying this book.

Where would you shelve it ?  Middle grade fiction

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles?  Yes.

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Renée Wheeler, Leominster Public Library, Leominster, MA

Date of review: January 11, 2017

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