What About Will

Putnam. Sept. 2021. 384p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780593108642.
Gr 5 Up–Twelve-year-old Trace’s family is shattered when beloved older brother Will suffers a traumatic brain injury during a high school football game. His parents divorce and his mother leaves town, while his father works constantly. Will, struggling with pain and depression, takes up with a rough crowd and starts stealing from Trace. Hopkins’s heartrending novel in verse evocatively conveys Trace’s attempts to call attention to Will’s dangerous behavior and his yearning to “fix” his broken family. Standout supporting characters include Mr. Cobb, Trace’s Vietnam veteran neighbor, and Catalina, a new girl on his baseball team. They help Trace come to terms with how he can—or cannot—help those closest to him. Details of Will’s struggle with opioid addiction provide warning signs that readers can use in their own lives. The verse format suits Trace’s first-person narrative; its brevity cuts to the heart of Trace’s raw feelings of isolation and powerlessness. Trace is described as having his Puerto Rican father’s “curly brown hair and speckled eyes,” while Will has “sun-toasted skin and black hair.”
VERDICT A realistic, emotionally charged portrait of a family divided and their fragile steps toward a shared future. Recommended for middle grade collections.

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