For all the reasons you forgot
From those who remember
This is the dedication at the front of Ryan Dalton’s beautiful new middle grade novel, THIS LAST ADVENTURE. It is a tribute to his own grandfather and real-life personal hero, who lost his battle with Alzheimer’s disease in 2017.
Knowing this background, you are likely bracing yourself for a sad, you-know-the-ending-and-it-is-going-to-sting kind of a story. I’ll admit that I was. Alzheimer’s is scary to think about. For kids, especially. And yet it will likely affect many of them– by way of an aging loved one. So how do you take such a delicate topic and build an endearing fictional world around it that a young person will want to immerse them self in?
While not an easy undertaking, it is one that Dalton somehow does with whimsy, heartfelt humor, and a lot of love. This is not a bleak book. It is a journey for the middle grade reader–-a realistic journey through the eyes of a thoughtful and impressionable eighth-grader named Archie Reese.
The book begins with the opening line, Grandpa didn’t recognize me today. And just like that, we are in this with Archie. Archie, who loves his live-in grandfather Raymond Reese, the closest father figure he has, whom he holds in the highest esteem. Archie, who fancies a beautiful, smart young woman named Desta Senai at school, but does not have the courage to approach her. Archie, who is just starting to figure out who he is as a young man in his early teen years.
Archie and his close-knit extended family are slowly losing Raymond to a disease with no cure. And while each tries to cope in a way that is true to their own stunningly unique personalities, Archie, armed with his grandfather’s beloved journal from his youth, seeks to preserve memories and stories by way of re-enacting them with him, engaging in the sort of pretend play that the two used to enjoy when Archie was younger. Archie hopes that he is slowing down the disease for his grandfather with these mental exercises, though we as readers can see Archie slowly working his way through the phases of denial, grief, and acceptance in a very relatable, true-to-life way.
These journal-inspired “adventures” with his grandfather, as Archie calls them, serve a very important purpose in the story. Through them, Archie is able to engage in deeply meaningful conversations with his grandfather and receive timely advice that he needs around love, integrity, and being true to himself.
Through reading the journal, he learns some dark secrets about his grandfather’s past–-ones his grandfather never wanted him to know about. This is perhaps the most beautiful part of the whole book for me–-Archie really seeing his grandfather for the first time as a young man sees another adult, complete with flaws and all, and loving him even more for it. It is this aspect that makes it not only an amazingly uplifting story about Alzheimer’s, but a moving coming-of-age story about a young person.
In this short, but deeply personal YouTube video, Ryan explains his inspiration for writing THIS LAST ADVENTURE:
About the Author
Ryan Dalton spends his time thinking up stories when he’s not wearing a cape and fighting crime. He’s a singer, a voiceover artist, a pretty decent amateur chef, and a lover of all things geek. Ryan lives in an invisible spaceship that’s currently hovering over St. Louis, Missouri.
THIS LAST ADVENTURE by Ryan Dalton
Middle Grade novel
February 1, 2022