Ceejay has never been pretty or popular, but she knows who she is: she's younger sister to Bobby, the most charming bad boy in town. Bobby's a bit wild, but with his big heart and sense of fun, everybody loves him. And nobody understands Ceejay like Bobby.
Now, Ceejay can't wait for Bobby to return home from his tour in Iraq. But then he turns up unannounced and seems to be avoiding his family. And he's so different. His wild streak has become reckless. His sense of fun has become desperate. And seeing this, Ceejay's own tough shell begins to crack. How can she believe in being strong when her hero is broken?
As she tries to get Bobby back, Ceejay begins to reexamine her family, her community, and everyone in her life. What she finds is that true strength is not quite what she thought it was.
National Book Award Finalist Tharp's (The Spectacular Now) multi-layered story centers around Ceejay, a brash, defensive, but empathetic 16-year-old, eagerly awaiting the return of her beloved older brother, Bobby, from the war in Iraq, with the expectation that they will skip town together. When Bobby returns early, having been discharged for drug possession, Ceejay's family is disappointed and baffled by his uncharacteristically reckless behavior. Bobby drinks too much, cheats on his girlfriend, and spends most of his time with "Captain Crazy," a local eccentric who lost his own brother in Vietnam and is building an "aero-velocipede" flying sculpture while waging a mental war against negative internal and external forces, which he refers to as the "Nogo Gatu." Ceejay pines for the childhood version of her brother, when they were closely united by their tough reputations and moral fortitude. Without the strong connection to Bobby that helped define her, Ceejay is forced to seek a more autonomous identity, one that may require laying down her own armor. With convincing three-dimensional characters, Tharp paints a sympathetic portrait of the constraints of small town life, the struggles of PTSD, and the challenges of faith. Ages 14 up.