Book Review – Before the Ever After

One activity I enjoy during the summer is reading books my sons are reading. My sons are in a summer book club. They were assigned to read Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson. I checked out a digital copy from the public library, and I purchased the audiobook. I had only ever read one other book by this author, The House You Pass on the Way, and currently have Brown Girl Dreaming, another book written by Woodson on my reading list.

Before the Ever After is written in poetic verse, and it is told from the viewpoint of Zachariah Johnson, Jr., nicknamed ZJ. His father, Zachariah “44” Johnson, Sr., is a popular NFL football player who had to walk away from the game after suffering problems that interfered with his ability to play football. These issues also impacted his ability to show up as the dad ZJ remembers.

Readers get to see chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the condition ZJ’s dad has from the viewpoint of a child and from other loved ones and friends.

My sons had never heard of CTE before reading this book. One of my sons researched more information about CTE after reading the book.

The book is a short read. The unabridged audiobook is 2 hours and 14 minutes. This book could definitely be read in one sitting. As an adult, I do wish the book was longer, but it was the perfect length for my sons’ summer book club.

Also, this book has won numerous recognition such as the NAACP Image Award and the Coretta Scott King Author Award.

If you are looking for a short read on a topic that is typically not covered in books directed to a youth audience, I suggest reading Before the Ever After.

Rating: 5/5

Suggested Grades4-8
Lexile780L
Guided Reading LevelR
Accelerated Reader Level4.5

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