Kentuckian and former teacher journeying to the Valley of the Sun in pursuit of my lifelong dream--to write and publish a novel.

Book Review: The Things a Brother Knows

Book Review: The Things a Brother Knows

Reinhardt, Dana. The Things a Brother Knows. Ember, 2011.

I am a bit of a book hoarder, so much so that I had to get rid of a substantial number of my books before I moved across the country. There was one, though, that I could not bear to part with: a copy of Dana Reinhardt’s The Things a Brother Knows. It came from the library of my previous school (as part of a giveaway—I didn’t steal it!) and I originally planned to just hold on to it for sentimental reasons. Curiosity eventually won out, however, and I found myself diving in to Reinhardt’s novel.

Levi is shocked when his older brother, Boaz, elects to join the Marines instead of attending an ivy league university. The entire family is relieved when Boaz makes it home safely from his deployment; however, he is not the charming, talkative boy they once knew. He mostly stays locked in his bedroom, and his conversations with others are brief and terse. From an adjoining bedroom, Levi can hear his brother playing static on a radio and softly screaming.

When Boaz borrows Levi’s laptop, Levi hopes that maybe conversation and normalcy might follow. When it doesn’t, Levi can’t resist checking Boaz’s internet history. After seeing a number of strange websites and catching a glimpse of a scribbled-on map Boaz keeps in his bedroom, Levi knows he is planning some sort of journey. Boaz is secretive, though, about his destination. Will Levi ever uncover Boaz’s plan? Will Boaz seek help for his trauma?

Characterization was so incredibly strong throughout this short novel. The narrator’s voice truly sounded like that of a seventeen-year-old boy. I also loved Levi’s friends, Pearl and Nim, and their flirtatious back-and-forth throughout the book. Reinhardt also does an excellent job displaying Boaz’s PTSD in a respectful but realistic manner. 

Because the book is such a quick read, I did hunger for additional detail, especially where Boaz and Levi’s relationship is concerned. The few scenes readers were given of the pair as children were vivid and well-written; I just wish there had been more of them. I also would have loved to see more discussion of the current political climate at the time of the novel’s publication—2011.

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