From critically acclaimed author Paul Mosier, a Publishers Weekly Flying Start, comes a stunning story about the beauty of family, the power of community, and ultimately the strength of the human spirit. Twelve-year-old El has planned on making her first week at a new school fantastic. She won’t go by her given name, Laughter. She’ll sit in the back of the classroom where she can make new friends. She won’t even have time to think about all the fun her old friends are having without her. Everything will be great. But when her dad picks her up after school and tells her that her younger sister, Echo, has a life-threatening illness, her world is suddenly turned upside down. And with her parents now pressed for time and money, El feels lost and powerless. Then she befriends Octavius, the only other kid in school who gets what she’s going through. As El begins to adjust to her new life, she soon finds that maybe a little hope and a lot of love can overcome any obstacle.
El and Echo are pretty close, but El finds it increasingly difficult to keep up the charade of being positive about Echo's treatments and how everything will turn out in the end. Her parents do their best to make everything as easy as possible, but nobody is perfect, and even they have their moments when El sees that she is not the only one being affected by this horrible turn of events.
Even though she feels her schoolwork is slipping, she finds some solace in art, and also in the comfort of her English class. Her attempts to make friends fall short, as she does her best to navigate the murky waters of middle school while doing her utmost to hide her home life. So many young people do this nowadays, and that is where Mosier's writing shines the brightest - in showcasing the truth of the situation and how people are dealing with issues like these every day and trying to find the ways that work best for them to cope. When a boy named Octavius befriends her, she finds out that he is not so different from her, and while this should be comforting, it scares her in ways she doesn't fully understand. Their relationship as friends is one that relates the innocence of youth along with the hardships of people who have encountered too much upset in their lives at such a young age.
Paul Mosier has written a beautiful and touching story that will pull on heartstrings, bring tears to readers' eyes, and shed light on topics that too sadly have a stigma about them. This book comes highly recommended!