All That Remains

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
All That Remains Book Poster Image
Three novellas tell of teens dealing with death.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

Hunting deer with poisoned arrows.


Hunting with bow and arrow. A boy is roughed up, another is seriously injured in a hockey game. Cut up rotted deer meat and innards are thrown into a bar.


A lesbian relationship, no details given.


A few expletives.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Beer drinking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that each of the three novellas in this book focuses on characters dealing with death and grief. There's a bit of strong language and drinking, as well as a same-sex relationship and some violence (hunting, bullying).

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What's the story?

Three novellas tell of teens dealing with death, its aftermath, and the help of friends. In the first, two cousins help their aunt's lesbian partner cremate their aunt's body, despite laws prohibiting the cremation of those with AIDS. In the second a boy reluctantly tries to help his orphaned cousin. And in the last, three boys help a new friend disperse her father's ashes.

Is it any good?

What may sound dark and bizarre in synopsis is actually entertaining and uplifting on the page. Bruce Brooks' trademarks are his respect for intelligence, both that of the reader and of his characters, leading to the kind of subtle and clever dialogue more often seen on The West Wing than in children's books, and the wicked way he applies that intelligence to sports description. Both are amply on display here.

Hockey and golf are Brooks' favorite sports, and they figure prominently, and to great effect, in the second and third stories respectively. But it is in the first story that he lets loose what he calls "a more dicey aspect of my humor, a less classical narrative sense, and generally more peculiar subjects and shadows." A reviewer couldn't describe it better, except to say that in Brooks' hands peculiar seems to be synonymous with fascinating -- and often moving.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about death -- how we deal with it, and what we do with the remains of the dead. Be prepared to have a serious conversation about the topic.

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