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The Ethan I Was Before

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Ethan had been many things. He was always ready for adventure and always willing to accept a dare, especially from his best friend, Kacey. But that was before. Before the accident that took Kacey from him. Before his family moved from the city he loves to a tiny town in the middle of nowhere. Ethan's new home feels like the place for second chances. It's also home to Coral Ethan had been many things. He was always ready for adventure and always willing to accept a dare, especially from his best friend, Kacey. But that was before. Before the accident that took Kacey from him. Before his family moved from the city he loves to a tiny town in the middle of nowhere. Ethan's new home feels like the place for second chances. It's also home to Coralee, a girl with a big personality and even bigger stories. Coralee may be just the friend Ethan needs, except Ethan isn't the only one with secrets. Coralee's are catching up with her, and what she's hiding might be putting both their lives at risk. The Ethan I Was Before is a story of love and loss, wonder and adventure, and ultimately of hope.

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Ethan had been many things. He was always ready for adventure and always willing to accept a dare, especially from his best friend, Kacey. But that was before. Before the accident that took Kacey from him. Before his family moved from the city he loves to a tiny town in the middle of nowhere. Ethan's new home feels like the place for second chances. It's also home to Coral Ethan had been many things. He was always ready for adventure and always willing to accept a dare, especially from his best friend, Kacey. But that was before. Before the accident that took Kacey from him. Before his family moved from the city he loves to a tiny town in the middle of nowhere. Ethan's new home feels like the place for second chances. It's also home to Coralee, a girl with a big personality and even bigger stories. Coralee may be just the friend Ethan needs, except Ethan isn't the only one with secrets. Coralee's are catching up with her, and what she's hiding might be putting both their lives at risk. The Ethan I Was Before is a story of love and loss, wonder and adventure, and ultimately of hope.

30 review for The Ethan I Was Before

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rikke

    This book is really wonderful. I enjoyed A LOT. in fact, I more or less breezed through it, that's how well told it is. I imagine quite a lot of readers will like it. Especially the ones who adore more serious novels, because this one does deal with some serious subjects. Is it a 4 or a 5 stars read for me? It kinda feels perfect, but then there's a tiny tinge of "perfect behavior" that did rub me the wrong way once and again... So for now, it's a 4+ stars.. If it turns out to be one of the unfo This book is really wonderful. I enjoyed A LOT. in fact, I more or less breezed through it, that's how well told it is. I imagine quite a lot of readers will like it. Especially the ones who adore more serious novels, because this one does deal with some serious subjects. Is it a 4 or a 5 stars read for me? It kinda feels perfect, but then there's a tiny tinge of "perfect behavior" that did rub me the wrong way once and again... So for now, it's a 4+ stars.. If it turns out to be one of the unforgettable ones, I will be sure to return to up my rating accordingly.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Betsy

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Southern Gothic children’s literature. Sounds crazy, no? But as weird as it might sound it’s a legitimate genre. You may think it’s all Flannery and Faulkner but kids have a delightful range to choose from. Now usually such books are in the vein of Sheila Turnage and her Three Times Lucky series, Zora and Me by Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon, and J.E. Thompson’s The Girl from Felony Bay. Which is to say, mysteries. The Ethan I Was Before by the North Carolina born Ali Standish isn’t a mystery in Southern Gothic children’s literature. Sounds crazy, no? But as weird as it might sound it’s a legitimate genre. You may think it’s all Flannery and Faulkner but kids have a delightful range to choose from. Now usually such books are in the vein of Sheila Turnage and her Three Times Lucky series, Zora and Me by Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon, and J.E. Thompson’s The Girl from Felony Bay. Which is to say, mysteries. The Ethan I Was Before by the North Carolina born Ali Standish isn’t a mystery in the traditional sense. Certainly she drops various mini mysteries into her text as you’re reading, but on the whole her book is a subtle exploration of redefining the self in the wake of personal tragedy. The essential mystery at the heart of the book isn’t “What happened to Ethan?” It’s “Who was Ethan?” And, “Will that version of him ever come back again?” The first time Ethan ran away he was caught early on. The second time too. The third time his own brother caught him. Now he and his family have moved from Boston to Palm Knot, Georgia, to a home of a grandfather Ethan’s never known and a school full of people he’s never met. Personal tragedy dogs his every waking moment. Something about a best friend named Kacey and what happened to her on a snowy night not long ago. When Ethan makes the acquaintance of Coralee he isn’t looking for a new friend, but this hugely talkative, upbeat, pipsqueak of a human being seems like exactly what Ethan needs to acclimate to his new home. But still, mystery surrounds everything here. Why is Ethan’s grandfather’s bedroom forbidden territory? Who is the mysterious woman Ethan and Coralee saw in an abandoned house? And do her subsequent appearances have anything to do with the treasure they found in the house that fateful day? When I was a younger reader and reviewer of children’s books I could pick up, read, and finish any middle grade novel you handed me. These days, I find my patience finite. I look back at the time when I could finish any book, no matter how awful, with yearning. Those were the days, eh? And though it sounds trite to say, I can usually predict within 20 pages whether or not I’m going to want to finish any story I’m handed. Now the opening Prologue of The Ethan I Was Before is the kind of work you could probably hand to a creative writing class as an example of a good strong first chapter. Look at everything it manages to pack in! Mystery. Suspense. A creepy vibe. Heartfelt emotion that grabs the reader long before they know why they should even care about the characters. Slap on that kicker of the double ending lines (“Once my feet start moving, I can’t seem to make them stop. I have to get to Kacey”) and you’ve got yourself a winner. This book may be Standish’s debut, but she knows how to pull a reader in, right from the get go. Mind you, the book does run a great risk of mystery exhaustion. Over the course of a few chapters the reader is left wondering what happened to Ethan, what his brother said to him that was so awful and true back in Boston, why no one can go in his grandfather’s bedroom, and what truly happened to Kacey. And that’s even before we pile on the additional mysteries of who Coralee truly is, who the mysterious woman is that’s stalking the kids, where the treasure came from, and why Coralee has memories of an abandoned house. Mysteries are fine things. Judiciously placed they can lure a young reader deeper and deeper into a narrative, until they’re so emotionally invested in the story and the characters that they can no longer extract themselves. That said, you can’t leave the solutions entirely until the end of the book. Do that and you have what I like to call Lost syndrome, where there are so many mysteries left unsolved and dangling threads swaying in the breeze that the reader is left unsatisfied even if the characters are well defined. Standish does pretty well in this regard. I’m sure that there was a temptation to leave the central mystery of what happened to Kacey and Ethan to the end, culminating in a large reveal. Instead, she judiciously places that answer in the center of the book, allowing the smaller mysteries to accumulate, even as the reader is satisfied a bit early on. And yes, there is a bit of an info dump done in the middle of a hurricane that feels awfully convenient, but since those particular mysteries all relate to one another, it’s not a bad bit of business. The central question that lies at the heart of this book is whether or not the person you have become in the wake of personal loss (whether it’s immediate or cumulative) is the real you. Let’s look at Ethan. He blames himself for what he believes to be an unforgiveable crime. By running away from home he runs from what he did and, more immediately, himself. His grandfather, by contrast, hardly even moves. His reaction to loss is to set down thick implacable roots, never moving from a time in his life when he felt happiest. These are pretty classic cases of personality forged in sudden tragedy. Coralee, in contrast, recreates herself in the image of her absent mother, constructing a life, if not a personality, that is not her own. Throw them all together and you get an characters that can push and pull and play off of one another thanks to their differences. Read too many children’s books and you pick up on a certain shade of foreshadowing. So as I went through this book and watched Ethan make friends with Coralee I found myself increasingly grateful for the disappearance of Kacey. Why? Because this book veers awfully closely into Bridge to Terabithia territory. Think about it. Loner boy meets potential manic pixie dreamchild friend. She takes him to a secret lovely location in nature that they keep to themselves. There’s a big storm and she is threatened by water. But unlike a kid reading this book I was pretty sure that Coralee was going to be a-okay. One best friend dead is fine (not "fine" but you know what I mean). Two? No kid’s going to stand for that. No adult reviewer reader either. *cough cough* Oh! And the writing! Did I mention the writing yet? Silly me. I always forget to mention whether or not an author is capable of slinging two or three words together in a notable fashion. You can plot plot plot all day until you’re blue in the face but an outline is not a book. For a book you need a little eloquence to your language. A little kick to your word slinging. And while I wouldn’t say that Standish is going to blow you away with her descriptive text, there are little things she does that stand out for a reader. Take, for example, this bit that comes Ethan’s first night at his grandfather’s house as he looks out his new bedroom window: “My room looks out on a marsh, where water snakes through patches of reeds the color of Easter basket grass, like it’s trying to find its way somewhere. I guess it probably is.” And later, “I turn my attention to the bay, where a lone sailboat trawls across the sun-shot horizon. The color of the water is like a box of melted crayons, like something from a dream.” These little bits of time and place I like. They’re little anchors in the place of the book, giving you a sense of it, if not the whole enchilada. Spoiler Alert: Skip this next paragraph if you'd like to keep some surprises for the end. Put plain, maybe part of the reason I think of this book as “Southern gothic” is the Boo Radley nature of the mom. She has a lot of Boo to her. The lurking. The treasure. The fact that she’s watching a boy and a girl from afar. And, of course, the dramatic rescue she makes at the end. The book doesn’t quite delve into the small town mentality that would have affected her so deeply that it could have. Really, the only time you get a glimpse of that is when Ethan and his mom come to the town and meet an old classmate of hers from back in the day. I think I would have liked more of a sense of the town itself. The characters in this book are full of personality but Palm Knot, Georgia doesn’t. It’s not the focus of the story, but I think getting a sense of the mom’s conflict in returning to this town she left behind (feelings inextricably linked to her feelings about her own father, no doubt) would have added immeasurably to the book, and given all the characters (Coralee, her mom, Mack, Suzanne) something pulling their strings invisibly. A children’s librarian’s job is to sell kids on books. Some books make this easy. They have explosions, or humor, or something exciting going crazy on their jackets. Other books play a subtle game. Harper Collins did Ms. Standish no favors in giving her the dreaded brown cover (the only color that kids actively avoid when choosing their novels). But the cover is mitigated not just by its title (which is memorable) but also by the writing itself. A librarian could booktalk a story of this sort by recapping the Prologue alone. With The Ethan I Was Before Ms. Standish effectively delves into a variety of serious issues, but wraps them in an appealing mélange of gothic, mysterious, exciting elements. Hurricanes and wild wolves and pool parties. Realistic contemporary fiction can be a hard sell to a kid sometimes, but this book? I feel like this book sells itself. And if you happen to get some really good writing, plotting, and characterizations on the way? Well that’s just icing on the cake. For ages 9-12.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Carlie Sorosiak

    "You remember that, whatever happens. You are stronger than you know..." It takes a lot for a book to make me cry. The Ethan I Was Before had me completely choking up. What a gorgeous, gorgeous middle grade novel. There is so much heart and love in this book. It's one of those novels that you just know is going to be on a "classics" list, and is exactly the sort of book I would've treasured as a kid. (And I probably would've begged my parents for a pet wolf and a pet alligator. Once you read the "You remember that, whatever happens. You are stronger than you know..." It takes a lot for a book to make me cry. The Ethan I Was Before had me completely choking up. What a gorgeous, gorgeous middle grade novel. There is so much heart and love in this book. It's one of those novels that you just know is going to be on a "classics" list, and is exactly the sort of book I would've treasured as a kid. (And I probably would've begged my parents for a pet wolf and a pet alligator. Once you read the story, you'll know what I'm talking about!) Ethan is such a relatable, empathetic character. In fact, it's hard to find a character in this novel who, by the end, you don't want to give a big hug. (Okay, except maybe Suzanne.) Coralee in particular is just so, so amazing - really sharp-witted. And Grandpa Ike! Love him! At the risk of giving any spoilers, I won't delve too much into the plot, but let's just say that there are plenty of twists and turns. The mystery elements had me holding my breath, and there's just the right amount of suspense. Above all, this is a story about friendship and finding yourself again after tragedy; the gorgeous writing carries you through grief and to the other side. I felt hopeful after finishing Ethan. One of my top MG picks for 2017.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Danielle

    "Sometimes a story is all you have...Sometimes that can be enough." "Trying to destroy hope is like trying to clean sand out of your beach bag...There's always going to be a grain or two left." Memory, story, grief, compassion, family, friendship, how to move forward when the best and worst are in the past. A moving, gripping book that will have you putting yourself in the place of Ethan, and all the characters. The last sections are beautiful.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Claudia

    This hauntingly beautiful debut novel by the prodigiously talented Standish takes as its starting point the unanswerable question: what becomes of who you were before if you unwittingly do something tragic and irrevocable that divides your life forever into two parts, Before and After? The portraits of Ethan, his currently estranged brother, previously estranged grandfather, troubled parents, and charismatic but unsettling new friend Coralee are brilliantly drawn. Standish kept me turning pages This hauntingly beautiful debut novel by the prodigiously talented Standish takes as its starting point the unanswerable question: what becomes of who you were before if you unwittingly do something tragic and irrevocable that divides your life forever into two parts, Before and After? The portraits of Ethan, his currently estranged brother, previously estranged grandfather, troubled parents, and charismatic but unsettling new friend Coralee are brilliantly drawn. Standish kept me turning pages in a desperate longing for Ethan to achieve self-forgiveness and to reconcile his "Before" self with the self he has become. I'll be surprised if this one isn't going to be a contender for major awards.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Michele Knott

    What I loved about this story is how all of the story strands are woven together at the end. The ending really brought the entire book together and held a place in my heart.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kristin

    A heartbreaking, beautiful book of resilience, grief, and forgiveness amidst one boy's struggle with guilt. To help him heal after the loss of his best friend, Ethan's family moves from Boston to Palm Knot, Georgia. Specifically to his Grandpa's house. Where getting along isn't always easy. First-time author Standish has crafted a winning, emotional debut. You'll root for Ethan the whole way through.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Becca AE

    This book was a page-turner filled with adventure, magic, and friendship while also dealing delicately with the subject of trauma. More than anything, the story is gripping! The dialogue feels natural and true to the characters personalities and their ages. The author shows a talent for writing clearly and effectively on a sensitive topic and young readers will surely see the connection between the story and the tough situations present in their own lives. This is a book that will help kids find This book was a page-turner filled with adventure, magic, and friendship while also dealing delicately with the subject of trauma. More than anything, the story is gripping! The dialogue feels natural and true to the characters personalities and their ages. The author shows a talent for writing clearly and effectively on a sensitive topic and young readers will surely see the connection between the story and the tough situations present in their own lives. This is a book that will help kids find their own confidence and their way back to mischief. For a book focused on kids, family relationships, adventures, and animals in the southeast, it's full of substance and meaning.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Patrick

    Wow, wow, wow!!! I loved this story. Such a multi-layer plot with multi-dimensional characters. Absolutely beautiful. Ethan is a strong role model for our young people. A must-read...

  10. 4 out of 5

    Alex (not a dude) Baugh

    Ethan Truitt, 12, and his best friend Kacey Reid used to have all kinds of adventures together, until one night Ethan dares Kacey to do something and, though it ends in a tragic accident, Ethan can't help but blame himself for causing it. Now, his parents are moving from Boston to Palm Knot, a coastal town in Georgia, using the excuse that they need to take care of his elderly grandfather, but in reality, Ethan knows it is an attempt to help him come to terms with his overwhelming grief and his Ethan Truitt, 12, and his best friend Kacey Reid used to have all kinds of adventures together, until one night Ethan dares Kacey to do something and, though it ends in a tragic accident, Ethan can't help but blame himself for causing it. Now, his parents are moving from Boston to Palm Knot, a coastal town in Georgia, using the excuse that they need to take care of his elderly grandfather, but in reality, Ethan knows it is an attempt to help him come to terms with his overwhelming grief and his all-consuming guilt. At first, living with his grumpy grandpa Ike in a somewhat dumpy, dilapidated house, and with an angry older brother who resents him because of the move, really isn’t helpful. At school, Suzanne, who seems to have a little crush on Ethan, wants him to hang around with her and her friends, the “cool kids,” but Ethan isn’t very inclined to do that. Instead, he starts hanging around with the intrepid Coralee Jessup, a smart, talkative black girl who claims to be violin prodigy, and who is not much liked by the “cool kids.” Coralee also introduces Ethan to the unofficial library in the back of the hardware store, both run by Mack, a woman who has been collecting books for decades and who always has some salt water taffy for her patrons. And maybe grandpa Ike isn’t so bad after all, especially when he decides to teach Ethan how to drive his pickup truck. As Ethan adjusts to life in Palm Knot, the circumstances of Kacey’s accident are slowly revealed in flashbacks. The reader knows that Kacey is still alive because Ethan has run away a few times to try and see her. She is in a nursing home, in a coma and on life support. When Ethan is told that her parents have decided to take her off life support, Ethan’s pain is intense and palpable. His pain is compounded by the fact that when he finds out that Coralee has betrayed his confidence about what happened to Kacey to Suzanne, Suzanne also makes it a point to tell him the truth about Coralee’s life with the result that Ethan begins to believe that everything Coralee has told him about herself is a lie. Everything comes to a dramatic climax and denouement when a hurricane hits Palm Knot and Coralee goes missing. Ethan couldn’t help Kacey when she was hurt, but can he redeem himself and help save the new friend he turned his back on? The Ethan I Was Before couldn’t be a more appropriate title for Ethan’s story. No one remains unchanged after going through a trauma that literally shatters the innocence of childhood, and the intense feelings that follow. This coming of age novel is written in the first person from Ethan’s point of view, so that the reader journeys with him through all his turmoil and agony as he finally attempts to come to terms with Kacey’s accident and his part in it, and begins to discover who he is now. Besides his narration, there are, throughout the book, lists that Ethan makes at the suggestion of his therapist in Boston just before he moved, thinking it might help him make sense of his world and who he is now, ”The Ethan you were before may be gone, but now you have the chance to get to know the new Ethan.” This is a debut novel for Ali Standish, and while I thought there was just a little too much going on at the end of the story, I also felt that she really understood what Ethan was going through and conveys it to her readers quite well and with a great deal of empathy. Ethan’s story is very moving and will have readers riveted, I know I was. And while it is an emotionally charged novel about guilt, grief, the possibility of healing, it is ultimately a novel about the importance of family, friendship, honesty, and most importantly, hope. This book is recommended for readers age 9+ This book was an EARC received from Edelweiss+

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ms. Yingling

    E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline Ethan and his family move from Boston to the south to live with his grandfather, who is elderly and having problems. The family felt they needed to move because something horrible and undefined has happened to Ethan's best friend and neighbor, Kacey, and he was unable to move on. His older brother is really miffed, and the grandfather has been dysfunctionally grieving his wife's death from breast cancer 30 years ago. Ethan manages to make a new friend, Cor E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline Ethan and his family move from Boston to the south to live with his grandfather, who is elderly and having problems. The family felt they needed to move because something horrible and undefined has happened to Ethan's best friend and neighbor, Kacey, and he was unable to move on. His older brother is really miffed, and the grandfather has been dysfunctionally grieving his wife's death from breast cancer 30 years ago. Ethan manages to make a new friend, Coralee, who has her own family problems. Ethan's family is concerned that he is replacing Kacey with Coralee in an unhealthy way. When a large storm imperils Coralee when she tries to save some wolf pups, Ethan feels he must go save her, since he couldn't save Kacey. Strengths:The reviews I've read have said that this one is "beautifully poignant", and I have to agree. The writing is good, the characters are fine, and it moves along decently for a book where there's not a lot of action until the end. Weaknesses: I just can't get behind books that are primarily about grieving. They are boring. The grandfather especially irritated me. It's not okay for parents to ignore a living child when the parents are grieving. Not okay at all. Also, the child imperiled in a storm plot twist has been done too often, especially in novels set in the south. What I really think: A lot of people will like this one, but I will pass.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Wendy MacKnight

    From the very first page, we are sucked into the mystery of what happened to Ethan Truitt's best friend Kacey and why it resulted in his parents moving themselves, him, and his older brother Roddie to a small town with Georgia to live with Grandpa Ike, who seems less than thrilled to have them there. Ethan is a haunted, broken boy, and his heartbreak makes the reader's heart break. Nothing his family does seems to bring him out of his depression and guilt, but a small spitfire named Coralee, may From the very first page, we are sucked into the mystery of what happened to Ethan Truitt's best friend Kacey and why it resulted in his parents moving themselves, him, and his older brother Roddie to a small town with Georgia to live with Grandpa Ike, who seems less than thrilled to have them there. Ethan is a haunted, broken boy, and his heartbreak makes the reader's heart break. Nothing his family does seems to bring him out of his depression and guilt, but a small spitfire named Coralee, may be up to the task. This is a rich, deeply personal and moving story, and Standish creates a world that thrums and hums with life - both in terms of characters and in terms of setting, and the two support each other admirably and thematically, especially when the hurricane hits. When the story of Kacey is ultimately revealed it is done naturally and carefully, as are the other surprises. This book is sure to be beloved by young readers and the adults in their life. I truly loved it!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Schreiber

    This book has been the best book I've read so far in 2017! It has a great central story about how tragedy can change a person but the twists & turns of the subplots wouldn't let me put this one down. I also enjoyed seeing a MG novel with a strong yet sensitive male main character. Perfect for middle grade readers! Readers who loved Swing Sideways, The Thing about Jelly & Just My Luck will be drawn to Ethan's story!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Czechgirl

    When I saw this book at the bookstore, I was intrigued by it because of its cover. I passed it by only to regret it later when I saw my Twitter friends post rave reviews of this book. This is my 4th 2017 middle-grade book to read and is my favorite 2017 middle-grade read thus far. The theme to this book is friendship. Ethan is a lucky boy. Although he lost one friend through a tragic accident, he finds true friendship again when his family moves to a new town. Love it.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Scott Fillner

    Wow! This book is wonderful! It has an emotional story and is written with such skill and beauty. I can see pulling this book apart and using it many times over as a mentor text. I HIGHLY recommend this book to 10 year olds on up. This book will no doubt end up in our Mock Newbery club next year.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Dana Langer

    A sweet, beautifully written story about grief, family, and friendship, this is a perfect book to give fans of Lisa Graff's Lost in the Sun.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    This was so, so good. Definite recommend. Ethan is not the same person he was before Kacey. Not even close. He keeps trying to run away, but his family always stops him. He thinks that if he could just get back to her, just one more time, things might be different. But they won't. Because he's pretty sure he killed her. His family moves away from Boston, and relocates in Georgia to move in with his estranged grandfather. Once there, Ethan meets Coralee and begins to wonder if he can in fact move o This was so, so good. Definite recommend. Ethan is not the same person he was before Kacey. Not even close. He keeps trying to run away, but his family always stops him. He thinks that if he could just get back to her, just one more time, things might be different. But they won't. Because he's pretty sure he killed her. His family moves away from Boston, and relocates in Georgia to move in with his estranged grandfather. Once there, Ethan meets Coralee and begins to wonder if he can in fact move on. If he does have a new friend, what does that say about him? About Kacey? Can someone let go and still remember those they loved before? Like I said, this was a great read. I enjoyed it immensely. Great story line, characters you want to know and root for, and an ending that had me crying in my car while I finished the last few chapters over lunch.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Tünde Ecem Kutlu

    “Trying to destroy hope is like trying to clean sand out of your beach bag,” she says. “There’s always going to be a grain or two left.” with a different style and a capturing storyline, I sincerely enjoyed reading this. this was a different book but the ptsd and the grief elements were unexpectedly well done. nothing was too much, some things were too less but overall it was good. “Sometimes we hold onto guilt or grief because it’s the last thing we have that ties us to the person we miss. We d “Trying to destroy hope is like trying to clean sand out of your beach bag,” she says. “There’s always going to be a grain or two left.” with a different style and a capturing storyline, I sincerely enjoyed reading this. this was a different book but the ptsd and the grief elements were unexpectedly well done. nothing was too much, some things were too less but overall it was good. “Sometimes we hold onto guilt or grief because it’s the last thing we have that ties us to the person we miss. We don’t want to let them go because it feels like we’ll have nothing left. But it’s dangerous, Ethan. The never letting go. Because until you let go, you can’t begin to remember. And if you don’t cherish your memories of Kacey, then she really will be gone.”

  19. 5 out of 5

    Carrie Cross

    Beautifully-written, engaging plot, and well-developed characters. The slightly depressing theme that never let up made it an A-minus for me. Interweaving more light-hearted or humorous scenes would have made it a 5-star read for this age group, in my opinion.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lilla

    A perfect middle grade novel that's chock full of everything you want a middle-grader to experience. friendships, family strife, guilt-a lot of guilt, and natural disasters. I also loved the sense of place.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Zaz

    A good book about grief and friendship, with a likable hero. Losing someone close to you is something difficult to deal with and I found it well addressed in the book. It was easy to picture how Ethan suffered, but also how it impacted his interactions with his family. Everybody was very lively and felt realistic enough, with some depth even if the family members were most of the time in the background. Which was fine with heroes this age and with Ethan being a little in his own world. If Ethan w A good book about grief and friendship, with a likable hero. Losing someone close to you is something difficult to deal with and I found it well addressed in the book. It was easy to picture how Ethan suffered, but also how it impacted his interactions with his family. Everybody was very lively and felt realistic enough, with some depth even if the family members were most of the time in the background. Which was fine with heroes this age and with Ethan being a little in his own world. If Ethan was the main hero, it was nice to have a secondary cast with strong minded girls, the result was balanced and appealing. I also appreciated to see a friendship between genders and the good diversity that was included. The secondary subplots were nice additions, probably pleasant for kids as they added some mystery and action. I was ok with them, even if I was more interested in the grief part of the story than mysterious events. Overall, a pleasant read, with a smooth writing and well done characters.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Josephine

    Debut novel Ethan is a happy, rather typical middle schooler in Boston, Massachusetts. He has a good relationship with his parents, his older brother Roddie, and Roddie’s girlfriend, Grace. Ethan’s true soulmate is his best friend, Kacey Reid. I was careful not to say girlfriend. The Reid’s live next door to the Truett’s, and the kids grew up almost as siblings. An unthinkable and tragic event occurs at a party which changes everything. Ethan is not emotionally capable of fully facing the event, Debut novel Ethan is a happy, rather typical middle schooler in Boston, Massachusetts. He has a good relationship with his parents, his older brother Roddie, and Roddie’s girlfriend, Grace. Ethan’s true soulmate is his best friend, Kacey Reid. I was careful not to say girlfriend. The Reid’s live next door to the Truett’s, and the kids grew up almost as siblings. An unthinkable and tragic event occurs at a party which changes everything. Ethan is not emotionally capable of fully facing the event, and he is profoundly and permanently changed. The Truitt’s relocate to the small town of Palm Knot, Georgia, to live with Ethan’s Grandpa Ike. They claim they’ve moved south to help Grandpa in his old age, but the true reason is to give Ethan a fresh start in a new town. Ethan has been depressed, has tried to run away, and his behaviors concern and frighten his parents. No one is happy about the move; high school junior Roddie is bitter and resentful to leave his star status on the baseball team, Grandpa is hostile and outraged that his daughter has taken over his house and dares to throw away possessions she thinks are useless, and Ethan is still just as sad as ever. Despite his sadness, Ethan is sensitive to those around him. Braving the school bullies, Ethan finds the courage to stand up for the two underdog friends he has made. At home, Ethan breaks through grandpa Ike’s cold exterior and forms the only good family relationship. He realizes like himself that Ike also feels isolated and lonely. As the story progresses, it becomes clear that Ethan's overprotective parents are not being honest with him. Ethan learns a lot about himself as he looks through the eyes of a new friend, the spunky Coralee Jessup, who carries a few secrets and disappointments of her own. The reader will be intrigued with the suspenseful subplot involving a missing red wolf and the mysterious woman who appears at the top of the stairs in an old abandoned house not to mention the velvet box of precious jewelry. This first person narration by Ethan is a story our middle and young adult readers will not soon forget.

  23. 5 out of 5

    John Clark

    Take two young teens from different parts of the country. Mix in plenty of guilt, several dashes of denial, a mystery or two, a rescue, some other young teens who are not so nice, an angry brother, scared parents and a hurricane. Mix well and pour into book form. Meet Ethan and Coralee. He’s just moved from Boston to a coastal Georgia town with his family after a tragic accident involving his best friend Kacey that left him so distraught, his parents felt they had no alternative. Despite the mov Take two young teens from different parts of the country. Mix in plenty of guilt, several dashes of denial, a mystery or two, a rescue, some other young teens who are not so nice, an angry brother, scared parents and a hurricane. Mix well and pour into book form. Meet Ethan and Coralee. He’s just moved from Boston to a coastal Georgia town with his family after a tragic accident involving his best friend Kacey that left him so distraught, his parents felt they had no alternative. Despite the move, Ethan can’t stop recycling images and memories of what happened that day with his best friend. The family has moved in with his grumpy widower grandfather Ike who initially seems like someone Ethan couldn’t like, but soon seems like he just might understand Ethan’s messed up feelings better than most. He’s sure school in Palm Knot, GA will be another uncomfortable part of his life until Coralee appears. She doesn’t give him a chance to retreat into his shell and the shabby treatment she gets from Suzanne, who seems like the school’s queen bee, makes him want to hang out with her. She introduces him to Mack, the lady who owns the local hardware store and has an informal library there. It’s a sanctuary-like spot, perfect for the two of them to start getting to know each other. What follows is an interesting peeling-the-onion-like series of disclosures wrapped around a severe hurricane that threatens the safety of both kids, but ends up blowing away the parts of their sadness in a way that’s thrilling and satisfying. It’s a great tale of how wounded kids can sometimes help each other even though individually unable to move forward. It’s a great book for any library to add to the collection.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Munro's Kids

    Can you please read that as 3.5 stars? A solid 3.5. Ethan used to have this amazing friend Kacey and they were a fearless, uncompromising duo. But that was before the accident. Since the accident, Ethan isn't really sure who he is. He's had so much trouble dealing with what happened that his family has decided to pick up and move to a tiny town in Georgia. The line is that they are there to "take care of his grandfather," but everyone (especially Ethan) knows that it is because of him and his thr Can you please read that as 3.5 stars? A solid 3.5. Ethan used to have this amazing friend Kacey and they were a fearless, uncompromising duo. But that was before the accident. Since the accident, Ethan isn't really sure who he is. He's had so much trouble dealing with what happened that his family has decided to pick up and move to a tiny town in Georgia. The line is that they are there to "take care of his grandfather," but everyone (especially Ethan) knows that it is because of him and his three attempts to run away. Here Ethan starts to slowly let go of the guilt he is carrying. He meets Coralee, another fearless young girl, but quite different from Kacey. They form a fast friendship, but one that is derailed by the secrets they are both hiding. I liked this book. The writing was solid and the characters were good. I was worried that the author wouldn't have enough to say besides the whole loss of a friend thing, but all of the secondary characters had rich lives and problems of their own. The parents clearly were struggling. Ethan's brother was a great angry teen (though there was a miraculous turn-around in the last couple of scenes that bothered me for its miraculous-ness), and Coralee had some good issues she was dealing with. Eventually, even Kacey and Ethan's friendship is revealed to have been tinged with its own issues. My only problem is I'm not entirely sure it is a kid's book. There's the whole death theme (a hard sell), and a fairly contemplative plot. I think it fits in with Kelsey's jellyfish book, so I am going to read and compare. I also think it fits into the literary genre populated by books like Wolf Hollow and Pax. Good books, but you need a fairly dedicated reader, a teacher or some sensitive parents. -Kirsten

  25. 4 out of 5

    J.C. Davis

    This book broke my heart and put it back together again. I wanted to stay lost in the pages with Ethan, Kacey and Coralee forever. Standish is a fantastic story teller and her characters are so vivid and memorable they make the story a pure delight to read, even when dealing with a tough topic like grief. THE ETHAN I WAS BEFORE is perfect for fans of BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA or THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH. Like TERABITHIA the location of the novel becomes another character, so rich and full it's impos This book broke my heart and put it back together again. I wanted to stay lost in the pages with Ethan, Kacey and Coralee forever. Standish is a fantastic story teller and her characters are so vivid and memorable they make the story a pure delight to read, even when dealing with a tough topic like grief. THE ETHAN I WAS BEFORE is perfect for fans of BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA or THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH. Like TERABITHIA the location of the novel becomes another character, so rich and full it's impossible to ignore, and it also perfectly captures the uncertainties and triumphs of a new friendship. Like JELLYFISH, this novel faces grief head on and paints it in heartbreaking, crystal clear detail. There were so many lines that I loved. So many scenes that I wanted to memorize. This is a book I know I'll be reading again and again and one I'll definitely be recommending frequently. I loved every word.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Destinee Sutton

    Overall, I liked this, but there were a few clunky parts and when I got to the end I felt like I'd read this story before (e.g. Lost in the Sun, Bridge to Terabithia). I think the first half is stronger than the second half because Standish is good at building suspense for the reader. Why does Ethan feel guilty? What happened to Kasey? It truly reads like a good mystery, even though it's pretty obvious where it's going. The second half sort of falls into cliche-ville. Still, overall, it's a soli Overall, I liked this, but there were a few clunky parts and when I got to the end I felt like I'd read this story before (e.g. Lost in the Sun, Bridge to Terabithia). I think the first half is stronger than the second half because Standish is good at building suspense for the reader. Why does Ethan feel guilty? What happened to Kasey? It truly reads like a good mystery, even though it's pretty obvious where it's going. The second half sort of falls into cliche-ville. Still, overall, it's a solid book with emotional depth and great plotting in the beginning to suck a reader in.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Cheriee Weichel

    Emotionally, the book feels like it starts up where Bridge to Terabithia ends. Right from the get go Ethan is dealing with the loss of his best friend Kacey. We don't know a lot about what happened to her at first. We are just thrown into an emotional roller coaster. The family moves out of Boston to live with his mother's estranged father in a small town in Georgia. Ethan and his brother Roddy manage to bond with their grandfather, but there is a lot of friction between him and their mother. To Emotionally, the book feels like it starts up where Bridge to Terabithia ends. Right from the get go Ethan is dealing with the loss of his best friend Kacey. We don't know a lot about what happened to her at first. We are just thrown into an emotional roller coaster. The family moves out of Boston to live with his mother's estranged father in a small town in Georgia. Ethan and his brother Roddy manage to bond with their grandfather, but there is a lot of friction between him and their mother. To add to all this Ethan's parents are keeping secrets from him. At his new school Ethan makes friends with Coralee, a vibrant young woman with secrets of her own. It takes a hurricane and near disaster before all the characters start being honest and accepting of each other.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Leonard Kim

    I feel like the book takes on too many things, though it doesn't do them badly and it reads pretty well, so may rate more like 2.5 to 3 stars. But Ethan's guilty feelings, Kacey's fate, Coralee's history, the wolves, even things like Ike and Ethan's mom's or Ethan and his brother's relationships, any of these could have been the tight focus and stake of a book and I think that book would be better for it. Me and Marvin Gardens by A.S. King might be an interesting comparable for discussion, and t I feel like the book takes on too many things, though it doesn't do them badly and it reads pretty well, so may rate more like 2.5 to 3 stars. But Ethan's guilty feelings, Kacey's fate, Coralee's history, the wolves, even things like Ike and Ethan's mom's or Ethan and his brother's relationships, any of these could have been the tight focus and stake of a book and I think that book would be better for it. Me and Marvin Gardens by A.S. King might be an interesting comparable for discussion, and though I didn't love that one either, I think that book has similar considerations and handled them more successfully.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Clay Morrell

    It's impossible to say how much I loved this book. Every word is perfectly chosen and perfectly placed. The story is one that will last and last, and the characters feel like I've known them all my life. To say Ethan has changed me is the honest truth. It is a story I'll cherish. Beautifully written, it is honest, heartbreaking and ultimately full of hope, as every story should be. A real must-read.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    Oh, Ethan. Sigh. Hug. This book has all kinds of fantastic storytelling going for it. It pulls at your heart strings with a weighty issue, but leaves enough room for the reader to wonder, discover, and grow right along with the characters. This story will stay with you for a long time. Charming & deep; very well done.

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