ARC (Advanced Reading Copy). To be published August 2, 2012. Nancy Paulsen Books (Penguin Group). 252 pp.
Cassie enjoys 7th grade and running with her older brother Sef. When he joins the Marines and goes to Iraq, her family begins to fall apart. Her mother distances herself by taking pills and drinking, her autistic little brother Jack has suddenly stopped talking, her father tries his best to keep everyone together while her older sister Van begins drinking and rebelling. Cassie feels like her world is ending, missing the comfort of talking with Sef while also missing her best friend who is angry at her and not speaking.
When her Social Studies teacher gives an assignment of locating a blog written by someone in another country, Cassie finds Blue Sky’s blog. Blue Sky is a young Iraqi girl who tells Cassie a different story about the war in Iraq. As Cassie learns more about the war from Blue Sky’s point of view, and the hardships suffered by ordinary Iraqis, she begins to change her own feelings about the war. Cassie is torn, as she wants to support her brother, but feels having American soldiers in Iraq are causing more problems than they’re solving. Her feelings of confusion threaten to overwhelm her, but Jack becomes the anchor in her life and helps her realize what she needs to do to keep going.
Mature elementary and middle school readers, especially those with military family members in Iraq, will learn much from Cassie and Blue Sky. They, too, will draw strength from their experiences.