Multiple award–winning author Johnson concludes the trilogy that began with Heaven (1998) and The First Part Last (2003) with this heartbreaking title narrated by Shoogy Maple, a beautiful African American teen who has cameo roles in Johnson’s previous books. After leaving home for reasons fiercely felt but difficult to define, Shoogy moves into a woodland cabin with Curtis, who has returned to Heaven, Ohio, after a tour of duty in Iraq. There, in the quiet, the two young people fall in love (although sex is never described) as they work through their own complicated, private grief. From the first scene, which alludes to the book’s closing tragedy, Shoogy prefers to hint at the events and people who shape her world, and readers, especially those encountering these characters for the first time, may feel lost. Shoogy’s reluctance to spell everything out, though, feels deeply true to her character, and Johnson’s stripped-down, poetic prose is filled with shattering emotional truths about war’s incalculable devastation, love’s mysteries, and the bewildering, necessary search for happiness. Grades 8-11. --Gillian Engberg
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This thoughtful tale, with its quietly poetic sensibility and timely themes, will resonate with those who are grieving the loss of loved ones because of the war. -- BULLETIN, March 1, 2010
*“Johnson’s evocative yet starkly simple language powerfully shows the devastating effects of the war on one small community…the characters and circumstances are never anything less than rich and real.” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review, on Sweet, Hereafter (A Kirkus Best Book of 2010)