It's the summer before grade six and Calvin Sinclair is bored to tears. He’s recently moved from a big city to a small town and there's nothing to do. It’s hot, he has no friends and the only kid around is his six-year-old brother, Sammy, who can barely throw a basketball as high as the hoop. Cal occupies his time by getting his brother to do almost anything: from collecting ants to doing Calvin’s chores. And Sammy is all too eager - as long as it means getting a "Level" and moving one step closer to his brother's Eagle status.
When Calvin meets Aleta Alvarado, a new girl who shares his love for Goosebumps books and adventure, Sammy is pushed aside. Cal feels guilty but not enough to change. At least not until a diagnosis makes things at home start falling apart and he's left wondering whether Sammy will ever complete his own journey...
From Ant To Eagle.
This book had me hooked the moment I picked it up. I found the narrative easily to get interested in the events in the story and it became a great way to kill time in the dentist's office. And then I realized I literally could not put it down.
First, the characters. Everything about this book is so realistic. I believed I was reading the story in the point of view of an eleven year old boy named Calvin. From his annoyance at his six year old brother Sammy's constant desire to be around him, to his attitude with his parents, and especially when he hears something new. Words we would easily know as adults but are new to an eleven year old really reminded the reader how young Cal was, and how much he was dealing with at such a young age. I really like that we see moments where Cal feels guilt or sympathy for his brother, and the reader sees that he is actually soft and loving with Sammy in a lot of ways that are subtle and sweet. I laughed out loud at Cal's "missions" for Sammy. As an older sibling, I can guarantee I did stuff like this with my little brother. Like timing him to quickly do things I didn't want to do and make it a game so he'd play along. Sammy was an absolute adorable innocent little kid. He wanted to be just like his big brother and he had an amazing work ethic to impress him. Although I understand Alena wasn't the focus of the story but instead it was mostly on the bond between the brothers, because even when Cal was with her, it affected his relationship with Sammy. But I would have enjoyed more of her character development. Her backstory did feel a bit tacked on the last minute, and although her backstory and experience helps Cal's character grow, it felt like she was more of a plot point than a character.
I can't get too into the plot without spoiling it, but I think it was really well done. It builds beautifully. We start off slow, a summer of missions, secret lake spots, and new friends. But things take a turn when something big happens and as events unfold as a reader it's hard to catch your breath when you realize what is happening. It's not all fast paced when the big event happens and there are stunning moments that slow it down and the characters develop, which makes the impact of the story more powerful by the end.
Like I said, the writing was really well done and I cannot wait to read more by Alex Lyttle. I cannot thank Erica Robyn Reads enough for gifting this book for Christmas because it has easily become a favorite of mine. I plan on recommending this book to everyone. I could have easily believed this was based off a true story and Sammy, Cal, and their parents were real people.Their motivations, reactions, relationships, flaws, and their bonds were all so realistic and human. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in a story about two brothers, family, grief, self forgiveness, the power of friendships during difficult times, and so many other important themes. However, if you do pick it up, I recommend tissues because this book broke my heart and had me a mess.