Afterward – Jennifer Mathieu – Roaring Brook Press – Published 20 September 2016
When Caroline’s little brother is kidnapped, his subsequent rescue leads to the discovery of Ethan, a teenager who has been living with the kidnapper since he was a young child himself. In the aftermath, Caroline can’t help but wonder what Ethan knows about everything that happened to her brother, who is not readjusting well to life at home. And although Ethan is desperate for a friend, he can’t see Caroline without experiencing a resurgence of traumatic memories. But after the media circus surrounding the kidnappings departs from their small Texas town, both Caroline and Ethan find that they need a friend–and their best option just might be each other.
Afterward is as much about relationships as it is about the story of two teens. It’s about diverging paths, alternate universes and yet it’s certainly not a sci-fi. It’s about coping with the situations with which you are dealt, serious trauma and other types of trauma and coping with them both and never comparing which is worse, and with just getting through as best you can.
The day Caroline’s brother was kidnapped was day that changed everything for her family. But it also changed everything for another family because it led discovery of another boy kidnapped four years ago.
Afterward is the story of Ethan and Caroline. How they meet, how their lives converge, the choices they make that bring them together and how they become friends, test boundaries and learn to laugh again.
I loved how this book positions therapy in such a positive light. It is through Ethan’s sessions that we learn so much about him, what has happened in the past and how he is dealing with it and how he chooses to move forward. And we also get to see how the lack of therapy can make things so much harder than they might need to be.
Afterward is also about family, those that stick together, those that are better apart and those that are holding on by a thread. It’s about how important family is, even when they are driving you crazy.
Afterward is about forgiveness and understanding, questioning the universe, deciding what you believe in or maybe just deciding that you don’t need to decide just yet.
Afterward is the story of hope, not unrealistic hope, because when life is hard sometimes it just plain sucks. But hope despite and maybe even because of that.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Abuse, kidnapping, family, autism, therapy, survivors of abuse, relationships, friendship, music.
Reading age guide: Ages 14 and up.
Advisory: Coarse language, sh**, f***. Vague references to sexual abuse. Sexual references.
Published: 20 September 2016 by Roaring Brook Press.
Format: Hardcover, ebook, audiobook. 320 pages.