Mike Wilson's dad was killed in the war in Afghanistan when Mike was a boy. Now he's almost 16, and he has a lot of questions. His life has been difficult and platitudes about how his dad was a "hero" are empty when Mike doesn't know how his dad died. Then the letters start coming - letters Mike's dad wrote to him from Afghanistan in anticipation of Mike's 16th birthday and offering advice and challenges in case his dad never made it home.
This was lovely. Mike is a great character - hard working, responsibly, with deep questions. He's trying to figure out life without his dad around and with his mom facing her own struggles. I've never been part of a family walking through deployment or losing a loved one to war, but the description seemed reasonable and realistic. The story is intense and emotional but not so detailed as to be too much for teen readers. Themes include racial tension, a budding romance, bullying, team, identity, family and responsibility.
4.5 out of 5 stars
AR Reading level of 4.6
AR Interest level of Middle Grade + (Middle school and up)