Book Review: The Things a Brother Knows by Dana Reinhardt

This week, a former student finished a tour in Afghanistan. His family and our local community have all breathed a collective sigh of relief. He is such a good person and I cannot wait to see him when he returns. It is with this young man in mind that I picked up Dana Reinhardt's The Things a Brother Knows.

Though there are few connections between this fictional story and the teen I know, there is no doubt that each have seen and done things during their service that they will never forget. Some experiences might have been wonderful, but I bet there will be troubling thoughts and adjustments to be made when returning to their former lives.

This book is told from the perspective of a teen boy, Levi, the younger brother of Boaz, who joined the Marines rather than go to any of the Ivy League colleges he'd applied to. The relationship between Levi and Boaz wasn't exactly tight before Bo left and went to war. But, when he returns and doesn't talk or leave his room, Levi is stunned. Gone is the golden child, the overachiever who Levi has always looked up to.

When Bo's computer breaks and Levi offers up his laptop as a replacement, Levi gets an insight into Bo's world. What he finds is confusing and scary. It seems that his brother is obsessed with military sites, with blogs maintained by Marines, and is planning some sort of trip to Washington DC. Levi doesn't know exactly what's going on, but he knows it can't be good.

And then Bo leaves, supposedly for a trek on the Appalachian Trail. Levi knows better. He knows that his brother isn't looking to find nature. So, Levi does what any loving, concerned brother would do: He follows Bo.

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I can't stress how very real and gripping this novel is. I read it in about three hours. I just could not put it down. Every character rings true, every bit of dialogue and situation seems like it was drawn from real life. I loved the main character, Levi, and his family and friends. His brother was a little harder to understand and to get to know, but that's the whole point. He's unavailable. 

Unfortunately, this story is going to feel far too real for some of the people who read it in the next few years. We have lots and lots of young men and women who are returning from places that their families and friends will just never understand. No matter how well-meaning and loving we all are, there are going to be rough spots. Some will emerge more able to cope than others. Some will be distant. All will need us to be as patient and willing to reconnect with their loved ones as Levi and his family are in this book.