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About The Book

A tender-souled boy reeling from the death of his best friend struggles to fit into a world that wants him to grow up tough and unfeeling in this stunning middle grade novel in verse from the Newbery Honor–winning author of Genesis Begins Again.

It’s the last few months of eighth grade, and Isaiah feels lost. He thought his summer was going to be him and his boys Drew and Darius, hanging out, doing wheelies, watching martial arts movies, and breaking tons of Guiness World Records before high school. But now, more and more, Drew seems to be fading from their friendship, and though he won’t admit it, Isaiah knows exactly why. Because Darius is…gone.

A hit and run killed Darius in the midst of a record-breaking long wheelie when Isaiah should have been keeping watch, ready to warn: “CAR!” Now, Drew can barely look at Isaiah. But Isaiah, already quaking with ache and guilt, can’t lose two friends. So, he comes up with a plan to keep Drew and him together­­­—they can spend the summer breaking records, for Darius.

But Drew’s not the same Drew since Darius was killed, and Isaiah, being Isaiah, isn’t enough for Drew anymore. Not his taste in clothes, his love for rock music, or his aversion to jumping off rooftops. And one day something unspeakable happens to Isaiah that makes him think Drew’s right. If only he could be less sensitive, more tough, less weird, more cool, less him, things would be easier. But how much can Isaiah keep inside until he shatters wide open?

About The Author

(c) Jasiatic

Alicia D. Williams is the author of Genesis Begins Again, which received Newbery and Kirkus Prize honors, was a William C. Morris Award finalist, and for which she won the Coretta Scott King - John Steptoe Award for New Talent; and picture books Jump at the Sun and The Talk which was also a Coretta Scott King Honor book. An oral storyteller in the African American tradition, she lives in Charlotte, North Carolina.

About The Illustrator

Danica Novgorodoff is an artist, writer, graphic designer, and horse wrangler who lives in Kentucky. Her books include Jason Reynolds’s Long Way Down graphic novel. She was awarded a 2015 New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship in literature and was named Sarabande Books’s 2016 writer-in-residence. She has been a fellow at the MacDowell Colony, Blue Mountain Center, VCCA, Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts, and Willapa Bay AiR. Visit her online at

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books (April 23, 2024)
  • Length: 320 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781481465854
  • Ages: 10 - 99

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Raves and Reviews

In lovely verse, Williams tells a powerful story of a young teenager struggling in the wake of a friend’s death. Isaiah’s fear is palpable and very relatable to those with a habit of freezing in stressful situations. Observing him overcome his fears, both of risky stunts and of showing people his true self, is incredibly empowering. This novel also skillfully deals with issues of absent fathers, friendship changes, and prejudice. Interspersed are Novgorodoff’s beautiful watercolor illustrations that perfectly complement the story. All characters read as Black. VERDICT A quietly stunning novel in verse about grief and learning to accept yourself. Recommended for all middle grade collections.

– School Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW, 3/1/24

Williams’ book, written in verse and adorned with vivid illustrations, portrays an accurate depiction of Black boyhood. This compelling novel, full of vulnerability and hope, is a must-read.

– Booklist, STARRED Review, 2/15/24

“Be like water,” Isaiah says. “Always,” Darius replies. These are the final words the boys say to each other before Darius takes off on his bicycle to break the Guinness world record for a wheelie. Isaiah is in charge of watching for cars, but a chaotic, unexpected confrontation ends with a tragic fatal accident. Williams (Genesis Begins Again, rev. 1/19) handles the sensitive topics of death, grief, racism, violence, and racial and gender expression with care, making sure the narrative doesn’t become overly dark and heavy. The novel’s focus on Isaiah’s inner world allows readers to witness the evolution of a thirteen-year-old Black boy dealing with life-altering events, navigating challenging relationships with friends and family and, finally, feeling comfortable enough to reveal his full self in the process.

– HornBook, STARRED REVIEW, May/June Issue

Pastoral features such as expressive b&w illustrations by Novgorodoff (Long Way Down) and clear, accessible verse by Williams (Genesis Begins Again) skillfully juxtapose larger, heavier examinations of grief, identity, mental health, and racism, making for a heartfelt novel about an unmoored child seeking strength and self-forgiveness.

– Publishers Weekly, 1/22/24

Black boy joy, hurt, anxiety, and perseverance relayed with charm.

– Kirkus Reviews, 2/15/24

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