336p. Bloomsbury. May 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781681193663.
RedReviewStarGr 10 Up—This exquisitely well-balanced novel-in-verse is painful to read yet almost impossible to put down. Told in a series of titled poems, it weaves in and out over a time line spanning most of 17-year-old Joe Moon's life, alternating between the present, in which Joe is spending his summer in a dusty small town in Texas, visiting his older brother Ed who is on death row, and moments in the past. Readers catch glimpses of Joe's early childhood, when Ed and older sister Angela essentially served as his parents, as well as the moments after Ed leaves home, his arrest, and vignettes of the family's life over the intervening decades. As complex as this structure is, the plot maintains its momentum and clarity. This work also manages to be adamantly anti—death penalty, which is delivered with a light touch and integrated seamlessly into the story. Instead, the focus is on Joe and his struggle to come to terms not just with his brother's sentence, but also with the nagging worry that he might come to a similar end. Most impressive, each character is fully realized, with even walk-on characters brought vividly to life with a few deft words.
VERDICT A must-purchase for collections serving thoughtful older teens.

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