Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick is, without a doubt, one of the most moving, touching, heartfelt stories of life and grief and pain and love that I have ever read.
Steven is a pretty normal 8th grader. He plays the drums (quite well actually) has a crush on the super hot girl that doesn't even know who he is, he's a little awkward around girls, because he's just now beginning to hit that GIRL! stage and although he loves him, he's often really annoyed by his younger brother Jeffrey. (I believe their ages are 13 and 5, respectively).
But then, Jeffrey gets diagnosed with Leukemia and Steven's whole world changes. His mom is never home anymore because she spends all her time in and out of hospitals with Jeffrey and is always exhausted and his dad doesn't know how to talk about any of it, so he kind of shuts down (shutting Steven out, when he needs his dad the most) and Jeffrey is hurting and confused and can't understand why he can't jump and play and be normal anymore. But the kid is a trooper, and my heart broke for all of them.
This book slayed me. Seriously. I don't know why I thought it would be a good idea, but I took this book to work to read during down time and cried. The whole time. I had to put the book down over and over because I couldn't keep the smarting from my eyes. And at a few points, I was just straight up crying. (I had at least 3 people who came into my room ask me what was wrong/if I was okay...)
Steven has a lot to deal with. 8th grade is a tough time for anyone, so many changes internally and externally and you are reaching that stage where you want people to treat you more like an adult but you are still pretty much just a kid. And Jeffrey is that perfect 4/5 year old. He's insanely adorable, absolutely worships his big brother and doesn't really understand boundaries. (But I wanted to play with your stuff, why can't I?!) And even though there are a lot of times that Steven is seriously annoyed by his little brother (like Dangerous Pie...) he absolutely loves his and that, above all things, is what this book is about. It's about that special bond of love between brothers and watching an 8th grade boy step up and grow up so that he can be there for a tiny confused boy who doesn't understand why his body won't do what he needs it to anymore.
Steven is my hero. Seriously. If I have a son, I want him to be like Steven. It would not be easy to be in his shoes. But I don't know how to express enough that he is such a great person. More than once, the things that he did for his brother made me cry. There is just so much love in this book that it fills you up completely. And Jeffrey was so stinkin adorable. I love little kids and he is just an absolute doll. He's a brave little kid, but he's scared too and Steven helps him so very much.
I cannot express in enough ways or enough times how amazing this book is. The writing is perfect, the emotions honest and real. And it's not all good either. There are moments when Steven is resentful or angry about what's happening to him and a few moments when something with Jeffrey will take the spotlight away from him or keep him from getting something he desperately wants. But, even will those feelings of anger or resentment, he's also always aware that Jeffrey needs him to be better than that. He makes some really grown up decisions and I was so incredibly proud of him.
Seriously you guys, read this book. It's been a while since I read this book, a few months at least and I still get a little teary eyed when I talk about it. (not even lying. I convinced my friend to buy it the other day when I got a little choked up while holding a copy). It's amazing. And although it's a hard book to read, (any book that deals with the potentially fatal illness of a five year old boy is going to be a toughy) it is so worth it. So worth it. Because it's real and raw and honest and beautiful. There is more to the story than just these two. Both of his parents face the situation in their own way and need help at times remembering that their older son didn't stop needing parents just because the younger needs them more, the school and community and Steven's friends all play a role in the story as well. But ultimately, it is the story of love between these two brothers and if I had to identify the overall theme of this book, it would be love.
I have never read a book quite like this before and if you haven't read it, you are missing out. It is a beautiful book. One that will make you laugh and cry and ache and cheer and be grateful for the experience. So people, read this book. It is one that should not be missed.