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My Brother's Keeper

My Brother's Keeper

4.0 25
by Patricia McCormick

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Toby is a freshman whose life is slowly unraveling. His father has left, his brother's an addict, and his mother is solely focused on dating, in this realistic and engaging story about trying to hold a family together.


Toby is a freshman whose life is slowly unraveling. His father has left, his brother's an addict, and his mother is solely focused on dating, in this realistic and engaging story about trying to hold a family together.

Editorial Reviews

Lois Metzger
One of the best things in the book is the way McCormick captures Toby's isolation, sadness, desperation.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
PW said that this story of a 13-year-old who silently watches his older brother become involved with drugs "invites reflective thought and meaningful discussion." Ages 10-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Ever since his dad walked out, Toby has felt that there are few things in life that he can count on, and they all seem to be related to baseball. There is Mr. D, the proprietor of the baseball card shop where Toby likes to hang out. There is the good feeling he gets from playing baseball well. And there is the enjoyment he gets out of looking at his baseball card collection, especially the mint-condition 1962 Willie Stargell rookie card. The newest addition to his collection, it is also the greatest. When he feels like things are slipping out of control, Toby knows he can look at the card and feel better. Lately, he has been having that "things-are-out-of-control" feeling a lot. His mom has started dating again. His younger brother, Eli, has started requiring lots of reassurance. Worst of all, his older brother, Jake, has started smoking pot and popping pills. Toby does not know what to do, but he does not want to add to his mother's worry. Instead, he decides to cover up for Jake and hope for the best. What ends up happening is far from the best. McCormick realistically portrays the tension of a disconnected family in crisis. Toby is a likeable character, and readers are sure to be rooting for him from the first page to the last. 2005, Hyperion, Ages 12 to 18.
—Heidi Hauser Green
School Library Journal
Gr 7-10-As with Cut (Front St, 2000), McCormick has tackled a tough subject in language teens can grasp. Toby Malone is a high school freshman whose life is slowly unraveling. His father has left the family and his mother is struggling to make ends meet. His older brother, Jake, is slowly slipping into drug and alcohol abuse while his younger brother, Eli, is bewildered by all of the sudden changes. Toby cleans up after Jake's drunken illnesses, pulls bills out of the mail and throws them away before his mom can see them, feeds Eli whatever he can find in the refrigerator, and signs his own permission slips for school. But while his mother deals with her depression by dating, she is oblivious to the obvious signs of distress in her family. Things come to a head when a policeman finds Eli, injured from a bike accident, and brings him home safely, only to meet up with another officer bringing Jake home from a minor car accident involving drugs and alcohol. Jake is sent to rehab as a part of his probation, and Mom's attention finally focuses back on the boys. The story ends too quickly with the mother's sudden decision to take charge again. Still, this is a story that will grab readers' attention. It is written in a realistic and engaging manner and is a good discussion starter. It explores the different roles played out by the family members and how it is impossible for one person to hold things together, no matter how hard he tries.-Diana Pierce, Running Brushy Middle School, Cedar Park, TX Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
What's a ninth grader to do? Thirteen-year-old Toby Malone thinks he has to keep everything together: Ever since Dad left, Mom's moping, older brother Jake's increasingly reckless and secretive and little brother Eli is more withdrawn. Toby's also expected to live up to Jake's status as the school's star baseball player. All this while it's just dawning on him that the cute girl in school likes him. Then Toby, reluctantly along for a joy ride with Jake and his smarmy new friends, nearly gets creamed in a serious accident, and he realizes that he can't hide Jake's drug use from their mom anymore; serious consequences ensue. Brother ain't heavy, though. Toby's a likable, relatable protagonist, and he tells his story in very humorous first person as McCormick pulls off that rare feat of treating a serious subject with just the right lightness of tone. Splendidly done. (Fiction. 11-13)

Product Details

Disney Press
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File size:
297 KB
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Nurse Wesley's standing in the front of the room acting like it's perfectly normal to have words like puberty and hormones and safe sex on the blackboard. The other guys in my class are calling out words for certain body parts -- partly to see if they count and partly because Nurse Wesley's chest shakes when she writes on the board. Nurse Breastly, they call her. Meanwhile, I'm taking inventory of the number of hairs on the back of Paul Badowski's neck, who I purposely sat behind because he has the most enormous head in the class, and wondering if it's scientifically possible for a person to die of embarrassment.

It's Human Sexuality class, which of all the cruel and unusual things they do to kids in high school, has to be the cruelest. And, according to my brother Jake, who went through this last year, the worst is yet to come, when Nurse Wesley brings in an actual real-life condom and shows us how to use it by putting it on a banana. When I heard that, I told my mother I planned to come down with the Ebola virus or diphtheria or something; but she said I was going to school whether I liked it or not, because as the single mother of three boys she was relying on the Pittsburgh public school system to handle the sex education.

"Why can't I wait till I really need it?" I said. "Like when I'm in my forties."

She just laughed.

"But it's not age-appropriate for me," I said, which is technically true, on account of me only being thirteen from skipping a grade when I was little.

But my mom said if I was old enough to go on eBay to trade baseball cards, I was old enough to learn about human sexuality.

So, here I am, sitting behind Paul Badowski, trying to remember if sweaty palms and an elevated pulse are two of the warning signs of a heart attack, when he raises his hand.

I send urgent, heavy-duty ESP vibes to the back of his head, telling him to go back to sleep like he was in math class. But he waves his hand so hard it's like he's hanging on to the last piece of wreckage from the Titanic, and the S.S. Carpathia has just sailed into view. "Oooh, oooh," he says.

Nurse Wesley looks in his direction. Which means she looks in my direction. Which means I slide so far down in my seat, I look like I have a terminal case of curvature of the spine.

"Yes, Paul," she says.

"Nurse Br..." He starts laughing. "I mean, Nurse Wesley?"


Whatever it is Badowski has to say it's so hysterical he can't get it out.

"Paul," she says. "The class is waiting."

"Nurse Wesley... " He takes a deep breath. "What's a midlife crisis?"

"A midlife crisis?" You can tell she doesn't think this is especially funny. "It's really not something we usually cover in human sexuality class, but I suppose, if you want to know..." Her voice trails off.

"Is that what Toby Malone is going through?"

At the sound of my name, the entire class turns around to look at me. At which point I decide I'm glad that Nurse Wesley is a certified health-care professional, because in a minute I'm going to need CPR.

She, however, doesn't seem to see the gravity of the situation. She makes one of those superpatient teacherly faces that you can tell means that if she weren't a teacher she'd be laughing. Which is what pretty much everyone else in the class is doing.

Meet the Author

To research Sold, Patricia McCormick traveled to India and Nepal where she interviewed the women of Calcutta's red-light district and girls who have been rescued from the sex trade. She is also the author of the acclaimed novels Cut and My Brother's Keeper.

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My Brother's Keeper 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
Emilia_Embree More than 1 year ago
Although this book does not have an extremely tight emotional grip, it is still a book I read frequently. It had potential to make you cry - and not a pretty cry either - but that was a road the author chose not to take. However, the book does have an engaging plot line that continues to make me reread it, over and over and over. I would recommend this book to readers of the appropriate age, old enough to grasp the truth that this really does happen in the world, but young enough to read a piece of teen literature with a grain of salt and recognize that this was written for a specific age group. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is definitely not appropriate for Children under the age of I would say 16, maybe older depending on what the parents want. I think you could learn alot of things from this book, especially things of what NOT to do. I am not a parent but parents if you have a troubled teen and you don't know of the signs of just how troubled your teen is I definitely recommend this book to you.
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Hannan92 More than 1 year ago
My Brother's keeper, such a wonderful, touching, an exciting story! This story hold so many values on the average American family. This story is about a single struggling mother and how she has to deal with her three sons. All three boys have the same father, but he left the family and took up drinking alcohol. This was a very sad part in the family's situation. Toby is the second oldest out of the three boys. He has the most feelings and he has a really hard time dealing with everything. He feels that it is his resonsibility to keep the family together. Jake is the oldest. He is a teenager that looks to drugs and alcohol to solve his problems. Sometimes this always doesn't work, but Jake feels that he can "get away" when he is drunk or high. Toby feels that he is responsible and always covers up for Jake. Eli is the youngest child. He is really inncocent and has no idea what is going on with the family. After his father left, Eli started acting more like a young baby. He started sucking his thumb and he would do anything to get the attention of his family. This book can relate to so many people, especially teenagers. This is book talks about how a single mother is trying to raise three boys. Later in the book, Jake almost kills himself. He was driving while he was drunk. The mother soon finds out everything Jake has been up to. She is so devistated. Jake keeps holding on to that little hope that maybe some day his father will return and they will become a very happy, normal family again. Time passes and passes and Jake finally loses all hope in his fathers return. After Jakes mother finds out all the things her teenage son has been doing, she is relieved to find out that he is going to seek help. This book was a very wonderful book. I recommend this book to all of my friends. It is kind of sad, but it opens your eyes to different situations and different families dealing with troubled teens, and coping with the divorce of a parent.
jorge_LMS-----jorsa More than 1 year ago
As an 8th grader I realte with the characters in this story. They are about my agy and one of the character also has a younger brother like me. Once you sart reading it you wont want tos stop. Jake the older brother in the family is slipping into drug use, and his younger brother Toby is cobering for him but his efforts to cover up for him is making it worse. Fionally Jake goes too far!!!! I recommend this book to every young adult especially young men.
Garrett91 More than 1 year ago
The book My Brother¿s Keeper by Patricia McCormick is a wonderful book that shows just how hard it can be for a single parent to raise a handful of children. McCormick uses three boys and a single mom to show the recklessness in their family because boys always seem to be more of a problem than girls. McCormick also tries to bring the reader into the story by having scenes of drug and alcohol use. These are powerful parts in the book because they are used with high school students, and that can show the growing problem of underage drinking and drug use in our world¿s youth. Still do not let all the scenes of drug and alcohol use ruin your chance of reading this book. It is a great book that can teach a lesson to the people that read it.
My Brother¿s Keeper has four main characters, Toby, Jake, Eli, and their single mom. The book is spoken through Toby and how he is struggling to hide how awful his family truly is. Jake is the rebellious son of the family that was once the strong rock of the family. He was also the role model to his two younger brothers, Toby and Eli. Eli is the youngest and the innocent child of the family that has no idea that his family is on the verge of complete collapse. Their single mother is complete oblivious to Jake¿s rebellious ways, and the only reason she does not know what her son is doing is because her other son, Toby, has been covering up for Jake every time he needs to. Jake was at one time the star baseball player, the brother of the year, and the father figure of the family. That was all until he found the so called ¿magic¿ of drugs and alcohol. Then he started sneaking out and not coming back until 1:16 in the morning. When he does get home Toby feels that it is his responsibility to cover up the smell and the reason of why Jake is acting like he is. Could Toby¿s actions in saving his family actually help? You will just have to read the book to find out if they do.
My Brother¿s Keeper is an absolutely great novel in my opinion. This book can really relate to families that are struggling and those that are divorced. At first I was really unsure about this book because it was not the type of book I usually read. I usually read books that are exciting and adventurous, and not dark and depressing. Still, I really enjoyed this book. What really brought me into the book was the drug and alcohol use involved because I was really able to connect with Toby because I know that kind of stuff is going on right now in high school. Another thing that pulled me into the book was how McCormick used a single mom with three children because that is the type of family that I live in today. I will say that my family seems to be a lot better off than Toby¿s, but still it is another base that we both share. I would recommend this book to anyone who can relate to Toby¿s life or to anyone who likes really dramatic books about high school students.

This and other reviews for different books can be read at notrequiredreading.com
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
A brother's love is a brother's love: one of the many truths to life and family. In MY BROTHER'S KEEPER, Patricia McCormick tells a sharp tale of the often too-complex relationships between brothers, and the unspoken feelings and subtleties of such a fragile thing.

Toby idolizes his big brother Jake. Jake's the typical big brother figure; cool, funny, charming, and the school baseball team stud. But things don't always turn out to be as great as they appear on the surface. Internally, there are struggles. Toby's father has left their family to search his fortune elsewhere and has seemed to cease all contact with them. His mother is distant and has taken a stance of resignation. And to complicate the situation even more so, inevitably past Toby's endurance, Jake has fallen into a rut he cannot get out of. The world of drugs.

Now Jake doesn't seem to be around as much anymore. He leaves the house, returning in the middle of the night faded and disillusioned, leaving the responsibility up to Toby to clean things up, make everything seem fine, and to smooth away the creases.

But when Jake finally goes too far, will it be up to Toby to decided how to handle things? Will he rat his brother out, breaking the cardinal rule of the big-brother/little-brother relationship, trespassing on regions of brotherhood Toby has never touched upon?

McCormick creates a completely believable and down-to-earth narrative of internal struggles in the mind of a growing boy's problems in not only the broader family unit, but also the profound nuances of the complicated structure of kinship between siblings. Not only that, but she manages to keep it lighthearted at the right moments, as well as comedic at others.

Cheers to P.M.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Patricia McCormick¿s My Brothers Keeper is a story of lies, deception, misplaced trust, addiction, secrets, and struggles. Toby Malone loves his family, and would do anything to help protect it after his father leaves. But there¿s only so much he can do before his efforts are ruined.
Toby¿s older brother, Jake, is getting into trouble with drugs. He¿s always coming home at late hours and stoned every time. He used to be a star player on his baseball team. But now he's hanging out with a well-known drug dealer, and using.
Toby¿s mom has enough to worry about, such as too many unpaid bills. He tries to help his mom by hiding and throwing away some of those bills because he knows she cannot pay them. His mom has no idea Jake has started doing drugs. Toby thinks if she did it would just break her, so Toby takes it upon himself to cover-up for his older brother, and always watching his younger bother, Eli. Eli is the youngest of the kids. And since their father left he has resorted to younger childish behaviors, such as sucking his thumb.
There are many events that occur in the book. Like how Jake nearly kills himself by driving while under the influence. From beginning to end Toby¿s anger toward his brother consistently grows. While his hope for his fathers return is slowly diminishes.
By the end of the novel Toby¿s mom gets a huge shock of reality. Jake gets help. An enormous weight is lifted off Toby¿s shoulders. And they all get sort of a fresh start.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful book about a younger boy named Toby. His older brother (Jake) smokes and drinks and Toby doesn't know what to do about it. So he just picks up after him and lies to his mom. This turns out to be a good book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
¿Sometimes a person just knows when nothing is actually something.¿ Toby Malone is most fond of his older brother, Jake, the king of the sports, the chick magnet. But after their father left, Toby's little brother, Eli, started losing himself, as well as Jake. Toby finds out that Jake is getting into drugs and suddenly changes his entire personality. To subside Toby's mother's depressions, she started dating the one they call, ¿your Heinie¿ otherwise known as the food king. Soon Jake takes his trouble much too far, and there is nothing Toby can do to help his brother this time, considering he's helped him all the while before. Things may be tough for the Malone family, but Toby must fight all he's got to keep them together. Patricia McCormick really blew me away throughout these compassionate, humorous chapters. It made me feel as if I were right there with Toby going through everything that was happening in the story. I would recommend My Brother's Keeper to all that enjoy experiencing others lives while getting through their struggles as a family. This story helped me through my family troubles, now let it help you!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Toby is a kid who lives in a messed up family. His dad ran away. His mom smokes cigarettes but she is trying to quit, and his brother Jake (who is 15) smokes pot and drinks alcohol with Andy Timmons and some girls. Toby is also kind of weird because he has gray hair at the age of 13. The only normal kid in this book is Eli his younger brother. Toby is really interested in baseball and his brother Jake used to be but ever since his dad left his brother isn¿t interested in it anymore. Later on in this book Jake get s caught driving while being drunk and being under the influence of drugs. What did he do while being drunk and high? I know and the only way to find out is to read the book. With there dad gone his mom is starting to date other guys and Toby isn¿t happy with that because h thinks that his dad still might come home. Does he comeback or will he stay in California? The reason I liked this book so much is because of the diversity of this family. It kept me on the edge of my seat it made the book really interesting. At the begging of the book it was kind of slow paced but by the seventh chapter it really picked up and got good. I think that a person that likes diverse families will really like this book. Now the only thing that I have in common with this book is the interest in baseball. The diverse family thing I can¿t relate to because my family is pretty normal. I have heard about kids drinking and doing drugs, but I¿ve never done it myself.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have just read the book My brother¿s keeper by Patrica Mcormik. This is a good book. Toby¿s Dad left his mom and his two brothers Jake and Eli. Toby is really interested in baseball and just got a rare starnugell rookie card. Jake Toby¿s older brother used to like baseball a lot too but ever since his dad moved away he has been acting different and been doing different things and been hanging out with different people. Then even some times Jake wouldn¿t come home until really late at night. I liked this book because it was pretty easy to read. Toby kind of reminded me a little bit of myself. This book isn¿t any series of any kind. This book doesn¿t really remind me of any book that I have really read before or any TV show that I have seen before. This is the kind of book because it has lots of family drama.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a good book for a person who likes to read about family problems or kids who have drug problems. It¿s about a mom who starts dating someone and keeps it secret from her kids, but the kids finally find out. Then they start having problems with there family. Jake starts talking to this drug dealer and starts doing drugs and his brother keeps it a secret from his mom. Then something bad happens with Jake and his brother and Jake don¿t won¿t him to tell so you have to read this book to see what happens. I thought this book was really good. My favorite part in this book was when Jake sneaks the drugs because I was curious to see if he¿ll ever get caught. Some of my dislikes about this book are when the author just makes the kids in the book tell how there days went and everything that got boring, but other than that it was a very interesting book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was horrible. It was the first book i've read that I really didn't like. The characters were boring. They didn't have anything special about them, and neither did the story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was probrably one of the best books I've ever read. It goes through real life problems and it almost feels as if you are there. I would recomend everyone to read it. It makes you appriciate more of what you have than what it could be.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Wow! I loved this book. I even gave it to my sister, Caritas, to read. The author really got you interested in what happens to the Malones. I would recommend it to anyone who needs more good books to read this summer.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved CUT and was very excited to learn that Patty McCormick had another book out. I have to say that this one really grabbed me as well as made me laugh and smile at the on-spot descriptions of being a good kid in a relatively screwed up family. I'm sending it off with my 14-year-old daughter to summer camp. Highly, highly recommend it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My Brother's Keeper was extremely well written novel, just like Cut. All I have to say is the Patricia McCormick has done it once again by writting this book. If you don't get what I mean, maybe you'll get the picture when she becomes a bestselling author once more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thot that she was tryin to copy the boomy sisters keper but then i read the descriptio and this sounds amazij