Review: Afterward by Jennifer Mathieu

Title: Afterward
Author: Jennifer Mathieu
Pages: 320
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Source: Free ARC from Roaring Brook Press

Rating: A-

Note: As stated under the Source (above), I received this book for free from Roaring Brook Press via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review (and trust me, honest is always what you’ll get).

Review: Two teenagers in a small town are bound by a traumatic experience. They need different things from each other – at first Caroline is looking for answers that will help her autistic brother heal from what happened, Ethan is looking for…normalcy? A relationship with someone his own age, someone who isn’t constantly trying to protect him, someone who he can be quiet with while he tries to find his own healing? But as his memory begins to come back, he remembers things that threaten the one good thing he’s had since he came home. Can his friendship with Caroline survive the truth?

Where to even begin. Very well written. Thought-provoking. Handles this very heavy subject matter in a respectful way, without the kinds of details people might find hard to deal with. Instead, we get the emotional aspect, from both sides: the families whose children have been recovered, and from one of the victims.

There are so many nuances that we spectators don’t think about when something like this happens. While it’s on the news, we’re emotionally invested and genuinely sorry for the families, maybe even worried on their behalf. But once their child is found, the story ends for us. This is the story of what happens Afterward. It’s about the families piecing themselves back together and the different ways in which they are able to do that, dependent upon the resources that are available to them. It’s about understanding the psychology of sexual abuse (or abuse of any kind, really), how people in those circumstances don’t do what we think we would do, or worse, do things we think we would never do (we’re wrong, by the way). It’s also about taking any path to healing that works for you, so long as it’s healthy for all involved, and finding serenity in unexpected places.

Considering the subject matter, it isn’t as raw or agonizing as you might expect. Perhaps the author was carefully crafting it to be suitable for the younger end of the young adult genre. Truthfully, I didn’t shed a tear. But it did make me question my perspective, and that is always a good thing. And it brings to light a side of the story that isn’t given enough attention.

If you liked Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, I highly recommend this.

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