73 pages 2 hours read

Jacqueline Woodson

Before the Ever After

Fiction | Novel/Book in Verse | Middle Grade | Published in 2020

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Part 1, Pages 1-22Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Part 1: “1999”

Part 1, Pages 1-22 Summary

This section begins with “Memory Like a Movie” and ends with “Unbelievable.” In “Memory Like a Movie” Zachariah “44” Johnson arrives home to a warm welcome from ZJ and his friends. The boys pile onto him, excited but confused because he was supposed to be playing in a game that night. He tells them that the coach has given him time off to rest. The following poems recount other memories of ZJ, his father, and his friends laughing, playing, and hanging out together. In the poem “Before the Ever After,” ZJ lists a series of special moments: he and his family riding together in the car, him being allowed to sit in the front seat so that he and his father can have “Man Time” together (6), and delicious lunch in Central Park.

In “Who We Are & What We Love,” ZJ introduces his friends, Darry, Daniel, and Ollie, individually. Together, they call themselves the Fantastic Four. ZJ expresses the complicated emotions of feeling invisible inside his dad’s shadow in front of reporters and fans, but he feels seen when he’s with his friends, who treat him like any other kid. In “ZJ,” the main character ponders who he’d be if his father, whom he calls Daddy, weren’t a famous football player.