THE ETHAN I WAS BEFORE for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

Earlier this year I won a copy of THE ETHAN I WAS BEFORE at Literary Rambles. Be sure to check out the site as it is one of my favorites with frequent giveaways, author/agent interviews, and great advice for writers.

This was not a book on my radar, but I’m glad I had the chance to spend some time with Ethan, even though it was a bit depressing at times… okay, most of the time. It’s all about grieving the lost of someone you love—in this case a best friend.

We don’t start off knowing all the details. Ethan is in such a deep depression his parents have moved the family from Boston to Georgia to get him away from reminders of what happened. There’s an older brother who seems to hate Ethan and Grandpa Ike who they move in with.

Questions abound about whether Ethan caused the accident, the unsettling relationship of the parents with Grandpa, and Coralee who is a new friend with a few stories of her own. The numerous chapters are short, but always make you want to turn the page for more. A well constructed story with a satisfying end.



Ethan had been many things. He was always ready for adventure and always willing to accept a dare, especially from his best friend, Kacey. But that was before. Before the accident that took Kacey from him. Before his family moved from Boston to the small town of Palm Knot, Georgia.

Palm Knot may be tiny, but it’s the home of possibility and second chances. It’s also home to Coralee, a girl with a big personality and even bigger stories. Coralee may be just the friend Ethan needs, except Ethan isn’t the only one with secrets. Coralee’s are catching up with her, and what she’s hiding might be putting both their lives at risk. The Ethan I Was Before is a story of love and loss, wonder and adventure, and ultimately of hope.


  1. Ethan makes lists with titles like WHAT I KNOW ABOUT MYSELF, WAYS I COULD FIX THINGS IF I COULD TIME TRAVEL and WHY CORALEE AND KACEY ARE COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. They delve into his thought processes and are entertaining to read.
  2. Strong readers (kids who always have a book in hand) are looking for something different and meaty. This would satisfy their taste. It will be hard sell for reluctant readers or for those looking for a few laughs. Adults will probably enjoy this one more than the intended audience.
  3. The school scenes with the different social groups were spot on. This side of middle school is rarely depicted accurately, but the author got it right here.
  4. The book ends with a redrawing of the front cover. Very poignant.
  5. I’ve read many stories where a storm serves as a subplot. It’s used here but in a way that drenches the characters with a new understanding about family, friendship, and moving forward.


Mom has started saying my name the way she placed the teetering stacks of her best china into boxes back in Boston. Carefully. Slowly. Like she’s afraid of breaking something fragile and precious.


After four years in D.C., it was time for a new adventure, so my husband and I packed up our things, including our rescue dog, Bella, and moved across the Atlantic to Cambridge, England. It was here that I wrote Ethan, in a tiny office in a small English village, while I waited for my work visa to come through. Life’s funny that way. (Read more at Ali’s author website)


Make a comment if you have time. I enjoy reading all of them. Click on the comments link below.

Check the links to other Middle Grade novels over at Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.


About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...always striving to reach the next peak in my life and career.
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9 Responses to THE ETHAN I WAS BEFORE for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

  1. Thanks for the shout out about my blog. Glad you enjoyed this even if it was a bit depressing.

  2. This is one of my favorite books so far this year. I really liked the way she let the story about what happened unfold slowly, it certainly worked to keep me reading. I loved how you phrased your fifth point – spot on.

  3. cleemckenzie says:

    I haven’t heard of this one, but you make it sound interesting and I loved the excerpt.

  4. danielle hammelef says:

    Thanks for the review. I also love Natalie’s blog! The favorite line from the book–I admire this author’s way with words.

  5. I’ve seen the cover of this book many times, but have not read it. It sounds like a deep read, something I’d like. I hope his parents choice to move was a good one because the first thing I thought of was “running away.” You didn’t give much of the story away, so I’ll have to check it out.

  6. Dorine White says:

    I haven’t heard of this one. Sounds like a real heart tugger.

  7. Hmm. I’m hesitant about books that may make me cry, and this sounds like one of those, but it also sounds very powerful. Thanks for sharing!

  8. This books sounds wonderful. I sure hope I can get to it one of these days. I am putting it right at the top of my TBR list. Thanks for the post.

  9. I think I’ve seen this one elsewhere, so I appreciate your honest insights into it. I’ll keep it on my list, for those times when I need a book like this–many thanks!

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