When I Was Older by Garret Freymann-Weyr
Published by Penguin Books, 2000
Interest Level: 9th-12th grades
Reading Level: 4.4
15 year old Sophie is trying to make it. Her brother Erhart died of Leukemia just before he turned 8, when she was 12 years old. Since then her life has been a series of burying herself in her schoolwork, keeping people at bay, and being angry with her father for having an affair while her brother was dying, and as a result tearing her family further apart. Now at age 15, she is dealing with the fact that boys who were her friends have begun treating her like a girl and asking her for dates, and her mother has started dating.
It is through her mother’s boyfriend that she meets Francis. All of a sudden, here is this strange boy with a tattoo on his face, asking her questions she doesn’t want to answer and forcing her to feel things she doesn’t want to feel. At first it is good to have someone to talk to about her feelings for her brother, because Francis lost his mother as well. She is able to tell him things she hasn’t been able to tell anyone, including her mother. But when Francis begins to try to deepen their relationship, Sophie has some choices to make. Does she allow Francis to become more to her than just a friend, or does she continue to keep him at arm’s length?
From the Reviewer: This book would be good for older, reluctant readers. The sentence structure is very short and to the point. There aren’t many long, descriptive sequences and the author does not get bogged down in a ton of details. It’s a fast-paced read. I was able to read the entire book in about 3 hours. There is some good snarky humor in the character responses, and a couple of times I chuckled to myself, thinking these are probably the types of responses that go through my own teenager’s heads. I normally state that parents should peruse the book to determine if it is right for your young reader, but I really suggest that this is a book for the YA reader because it deals with the death of a child and the effect that has on a family, extra-marital affairs, divorce, and brief mentions of sex.