From School Library Journal
Gr 6-9-At 14, Rachel McLaren is finding it difficult to grow up with all of the trouble at home. Jamie, her older brother, returns from World War II and continually relives the battles and horrors in the trenches. His family assumes he is suffering from stress, but eventually he learns that he has leukemia. While Jamie is in and out of remission, Mrs. McLaren becomes pregnant. Rachel learns to grow up in a hurry once her baby brother arrives and her mother stays in bed all day with postpartum depression. The girl is faced with a handsome new teacher who exhibits inappropriate behavior toward many of the girls. The appeal of the story is that the problems are real and not overdramatized. Readers may find Jamie's story more interesting than Rachel's as his "letters not sent" ring true to the time period and offer a soldier's perspective on the war. A quiet, thoughtful novel, with more introspection than action.-Karen Alexander, Lake Fenton High School, Linden, MIα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journal. LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
*Starred Review* Fifteen-year-old Rachel is dealing with a lot. Her brother, Jamie, has returned from WWII, haunted by the friendly fire that wounded him and killed his buddy Leeson. She has a crush on her high-school drama teacher and wonders if he feels the same way about her—and does she really want him to? Then Rachel is quickly overwhelmed when the family learns that Jamie has leukemia and their mother is expecting a baby to, as Jamie angrily says, “take my place.” Johnston has crafted a beautifully written, low-key, yet emotional story of a family dealing with the return of a son at the close of war. Jamie is wracked with survivor’s guilt and frustrated at returning to his adolescent way of life after having experienced the trauma of battle. His letters to Rachel, unsent but carefully saved so he can read and reread them, are painfully realistic, the antithesis of the glamour that teens too often assign to war, regardless of the decade. The family has more than its share to cope with during the year that Rachel narrates the story, but the love the characters feel for each other—and the resilience that love offers them—makes this difficult story authentic and ultimately hopeful. Grades 7-12. --Frances Bradburn