Fans of Jandy Nelson and Marieke Nijkamp will love this deeply moving novel in verse about the aftermath of a gun accident.
Life changes forever for Liv when her older brother, Jonah, accidentally shoots himself with his best friend Clay’s father’s gun. Now Jonah needs round-the-clock care just to stay alive, and Liv feels like she’s the only person who can see that her brother is still there inside his broken body.
With Liv’s mom suing Clay’s family, there are divisions in the community that Liv knows she’s not supposed to cross. But Clay is her friend, too, and she refuses to turn away from him—just like she refuses to give up on Jonah.
This powerful novel is a stunning exploration of tragedy, grief, compassion, and forgiveness.
In eloquent narrative verse, this debut set in a small, working-class Maine community recounts the reverberations of a gun accident that leaves 17-year-old Jonah severely brain damaged and on life support. The narrator, Jonah's 15-year-old sister, Liv, struggles to comprehend her new reality: her teachers' voices sound "like buzzing.../ all the words blending together/ into one big GRAH." Jonah now lives in the family's living room, dependent on round-the-clock nurses for survival, and letters to the editor blame Jonah's parents' negligent teaching for the accident. Meanwhile, Jonah's best friend, Clay, in whose attic Jonah accidentally shot himself, is forbidden to visit because Liv's mother, desperate for money to pay for Jonah's care, is suing Clay's parents. Frustrated that her mother pays "more attention/ to Jonah's machines/ than to Jonah," Liv remains convinced that "Jonah is in there." Liv's resilience grows with her gradual recognition of her own inner resources; Jonah's indomitable spirit; Clay's quiet, steadfast friendship; and the supportive network that embraces her family. Culley, who has worked as a pediatric hospice nurse, deftly captures the community's nuanced responses and the heartbreak both families navigate as this devastating tragedy becomes a political battleground. Ages 13 up.