Not After Everything – Michelle Levy – Dial – Published 4 August 2015
Tyler has a football scholarship to Stanford, a hot girlfriend, and a reliable army of friends to party with. Then his mom kills herself. And Tyler lets it all go. Now he needs to dodge what his dad is offering (verbal tirades and abuse) and earn what his dad isn’t (money). Tyler finds a job that crashes him into Jordyn, his former childhood friend turned angry-loner goth-girl. She brings Tyler an unexpected reprieve from the never-ending pity party his life has become. How could he not fall for her? But with his dad more brutally unpredictable than ever, Tyler knows he can’t risk bringing Jordyn too deeply into the chaos. So when violence rocks his world again, will it be Jordyn who shows him the way to a hopeful future? Or after everything, will Tyler have to find it in himself?
What a fantastic book. It’s rough and raw and yet also fresh and hopeful. And I loved the ending.
Everything has changed for Tyler since the moment he found his mother floating in a bath of her own blood. Football only brings shameful memories, he no longer fits with his girlfriend or friends, and his father is always one drink away from abusive disaster. Forced to work to pay for his own fuel, clothes and food, Tyler finds a job at a photography studio. It’s there that he reconnects with a childhood friend, Jordyn, who is now unrecognisable in her goth-girl getup. But Jordyn doesn’t let Tyler get away with anything and Tyler can’t believe how much of a relief it is to finally find someone with whom he can be real.
In many ways this is just like a number of books I have read with a main character who has lost a parent or who has an abusive home situation and finds solace from their life in the arms of a girl/boy who ‘gets them’. But Tyler is written in such a believable, no-fuss, typical teenage male voice and makes such an irresistible narrator that I couldn’t put the book down. And this really isn’t like any of those other hard-luck, tough-situation stories. It never felt done before or unoriginal. In fact, the whole thing was edge-of-your-seat, heart-in-your-mouth addictive. Tyler doesn’t rely on Jordyn to fix his problems. Sure, she helps him figure stuff out and is always there for him in a variety of ways, but Tyler knows it is up to him to direct his life and how he wants his future to look. And I loved the ending. Maybe it’s not what some people are looking for, but I think it was perfect.
This book isn’t just about romance, though there is plenty of that and some pretty hot moments, but ultimately it’s about Tyler dealing with what happened with his mother. It’s a rough story and certainly doesn’t pull it’s punches (maybe that’s not such a great term to use considering the amount of punching and violent abuse in this book), but overall, it’s a book about love and resilience and the people who shape who we become.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Abuse, suicide, grief, family, parents, friendship, romance, dating, college, football, resilience, self-determination, counselling, futures and choices.
Reading age guide: Ages 14 and up.
Advisory: Mature themes surrounding suicide and abuse. Violence – character suffers physical abuse, descriptions of fights and animal cruelty. Sexual references and implied sexual scenes. Frequent coarse language, f***, s***, sl**, dou****g and variations of these.
Published: 4 August by Dial.
Format: Hardcover, paperback, ebook. 304 pages.