Full Text Reviews:
Booklist - 03/01/2020 It’s been six weeks since Justin’s dad, a war vet with PTSD, came home and got himself killed on the trolley tracks. Things are different now for the 12-year-old, his older brother (Murphy), and their mom. Both Mom and Murphy are working extra, leaving Justin to come home to an empty house. Will normalcy return? Justin ponders what normal even means now, but he’s thankful that Phuc remains his loyal friend and that Jenni seems to likes him. Picking up the pieces of his life is hard, especially when many of Justin’s questions don’t have answers. Blejwas (Once You Know This, 2017) has equipped her sophomore novel with realistic main characters who experience varying emotional upheavals. Her small-town setting—Wicapi, Minnesota—is so frigid in February that readers will feel it, and it’s filled with nosy but caring folks. As the plot develops, Justin, Murphy, and Mom settle into a new routine, still with sadness but also punctuated with joy and laughter. A quiet look at death, loss, and recovery. - Copyright 2020 Booklist.
School Library Journal - 04/01/2020 Gr 5–8—Blejwas's new novel takes readers to the early 1990s in small-town Minnesota, through the eyes of 12-year-old Justin. Justin's life has changed dramatically since the unexpected death of his father in a trolley accident. Now his mom and older brother work long hours to make ends meet. Justin is trying to keep a low profile at school, which is not easy when everyone knows him as "the boy whose father was killed in a weird accident," while not being a burden to his mom. He is a thoughtful and observant kid who is trying to make sense of life after the death of a parent—which isn't made any easier by the circumstances of his father's death which raise more questions than they answer. When Justin is assigned a school project on a historical conflict, he chooses to do his project on the history of his town. Despite the teacher's warning that the topic didn't have enough conflict for the assignment, Justin presses on, discovering a past involving the Dakota that had been unknown to him. The narrative's pacing is slow and full of information that Justin uncovers in his research, which may deter some readers, but those who appreciate a character-driven, coming-of-age story will find much to love here. VERDICT A poignant story that addresses serious topics, including suicide and PTSD, in a way that is ultimately hopeful.—Mindy Rhiger, Hennepin County Library, MN - Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.