Thursday, September 24, 2020

Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson

Trust Jacqueline Woodson, national treasure that she is, to have you smiling and crying within moments of the other and leave you feeling hopeful even in the most dire of circumstances. Her latest, Before the Ever After, explores the story of a family affected by CTE, chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Written in the verse format she's come to be known for, Woodson's beautiful words take readers on a journey of how it feels to watch your world crumble through a child's eyes. 

 As Zachariah "44" Johnson, Super Bowl champion tight end, struggles with gaps in his memory and feelings of not quite being himself, his son ZJ struggles with watching the father both he and his friends adore become a stranger. Where his dad once joked around with and encouraged ZJ's friends, he's become an angry man who yells without provocation. Woodson gives words to Zachariah's inner thoughts, as well as those he expresses out loud. And those thoughts are important because that's where readers can see how frightened he is at who he's becoming. 

 Woodson gives ZJ a strong support group that I truly treasured because so often Black boys aren't portrayed as boys. There's a tendency to forget that they're children, but ZJ's mother, Lisa, at one point reminds him to enjoy being a child for a while longer. So as ZJ's world is crumbling around him, he has Ollie and Darry and Daniel to fall back on. When one of them calls for a meeting at the trail, it's understood that their friend needs them and they show up for each other. It's such a beautiful friendship that even with everything going on in ZJ's life, I left the story feeling confident his friends would get him through whatever obstacles he and his family were faced with.

No comments :

Post a Comment