Review: The Ethan I Was Before – Ali Standish

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Genre: Middle grade, contemporary

Publication Date: June 29th 2017 by Orchard Books, Hachette Children’s Group

Format: ebook sent to me for review from Hachette Children’s Group via Netgalley

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 the city he loves to a tiny town in the middle of nowhere. 

Ethan’s new home feels like the place for 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. 

(from goodreads.com)


When the write-up on Netgalley described this as ‘Wonder meets Goodnight Mr. Tom’, I had to request it. I loved both of those books and Goodnight Mr. Tom especially is an all-time favourite. The Ethan I Was Before was so so wonderful. It was heartbreaking but also uplifting, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

There was an element of mystery surrounding the character of Kacey and the events that caused Ethan to move from Boston, and it kept me intrigued throughout the novel. Once I found out what they were, it broke my heart, especially as they were told through Ethan’s perspective. I don’t want to say too much, because it would be a massive spoiler as the whole book is about Ethan dealing with events that are left unexplained to the reader until the end very end, but his point of view just made the story even sadder.

I loved the massive focus on both friendship and family. The family is central in the narrative, with the beginning being their moving in with Ethan’s grandfather. There is wonderful development in the relationships within the family unit too, and it was fantastic to see that a constant (which many see the family as, and it is the same for Ethan) can still change and evolve through time.

I also loved the character of Coralee and the story that she has, which I won’t go into because again, spoilers. She’s an adorable character and despite her age, she is sassy and stands up for what she believes in and I think that is an incredible message for kids to read. Her friendship with Ethan is fabulous and the pair of them just made me happy to read about.

The plot of this novel was quite complex, but very easy to follow nonetheless. I honestly loved it, and there is quite a lot that is hinted at but largely left unsaid until the very end, which picked up the pace and kept me intrigued and hooked until the reveal.

This was a wonderful book, and I would highly recommend it. The story was unique, fun, and interesting, and I think it’s fair to see that it’s a book that you can’t help enjoying for one reason of another. The characters are great with their antics, mishaps and friendships, and I’d say anyone could pick this up and fall in love with them, no matter what their age.

Rating: 5 / 5 Stars.

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