This Last Adventure

Carolrhoda. Feb. 2022. 304p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781541599284.
Gr 5-8–Eighth grader Archie and his grandfather have an exceptionally close relationship. Archie and his mother have lived at his grandfather’s house his whole life, and the older man is the closest thing to a father Archie has ever known. He’s shocked when his grandfather does not recognize him one morning, and the family is devastated by his ultimate Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Archie and his mother have very different ways of coping with his Grandpa’s memory loss; his mother avoids thinking about it, dating so often Archie can’t keep track of her dates’ names. Archie is frequently left alone “in charge” of his grandfather. On bad days, when his grandfather is disoriented, Archie revives an old game the two used to play of reenacting adventures, sometimes using his grandfather’s journal entries for prompts. This tactic ultimately backfires, and makes Archie realize there is little he can do to help slow the disease. Balancing a complex home life with school is sometimes challenging for Archie; he is navigating typical 13-year-old challenges around crushes and identity while carrying a larger burden. His supportive friend group helps ground Archie, keeping him a relatable character learning to navigate his feelings and relationships. This poignant novel explores complex and difficult issues with hope and humor. Characters’ evolving feelings and self-realization are realistically portrayed, as are conflict and resolutions between characters. The fantasy sections of the book, where Charlie and his grandfather reenact adventures, are imaginatively written and provide readers, along with Charlie and his grandfather, a respite from the heartbreak of watching Grandpa deteriorate. Charlie and his family are white. Charlie’s best friend is Japanese and Hawaiian, his friend Desta’s parents immigrated from Ethiopia, and his friend Kamiko is Japanese American.
VERDICT This novel sensitively explores difficult issues with hope and warmth, creating believable characters readers will care about.

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