Some people die heroically, others accidentally. Some people die for a cause, while others die from making a single bad choice. When Daniel Anderson’s older brother is killed in Iraq, he wonders which category Eli’s death falls into. To deliberately put himself at such risk, to leave Danny - who always depended on him - Eli must have died heroically, to make the world a better place, right? In an attempt to puzzle out this crushing loss, Danny creates a Book of the Dead - an old binder that he fills with details about dead people.
Octavia has big questions on her mind: Why do bad things happen, like Hurricane Katrina and 9/11? What is the meaning of life? Is there a God? Octavia’s father is convinced that art and Henry David Thoreau hold the key to life. Her mother, Ray, though, has always been seeking greater meaning - up until now. Octavia’s problem is not only that her parents have different answers to the big questions but that their answers are threatening to tear her family apart.
Sarah Simpson loves to make lists. She has lists of the things she doesn't like about her father's new (blond tennis instructor) wife, things she doesn't like about her motherï¿¿ï¿¿s new (nerdy, zebra-shirt-wearing) boyfriend, and reasons why life is just plain unfair.