Author: Jennifer Mathieu
Synopsis: 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.
Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!
I think I just might be in love with Jennifer Mathieu. I consider Devoted to be one of my all time favourite books in recent years, and her debut The Truth About Alice left me broken yet hopeful. Her latest release, Afterward focuses on a kidnapping, and how people attempt to return to a “normal life” after such a traumatic event.
This novel focuses on two narratives: Caroline, who’s younger brother with autism is kidnapped on her watch, and Ethan, a young man who was taken at a young age and longs to feel normal again. Both boys are suffering from PTSD, remembering horrific things from the time they were removed from their families. Caroline befriends Ethan in hopes of learning about her brother’s kidnapping and why he has become much more closed off.
The friendship between Caroline and Ethan was superb in this story, and I loved that Mathieu did not make them into a couple. The novel shows the gradual build of their friendship, and it looks at how important having a good friend can be when dealing with mental stress. The plot twist that Mathieu throws in, though I had some hunches about, I was not actually expecting the way she executed it and it totally ripped me to shreds.
I also loved the way that Mathieu explores autism and families who have children who are autistic. This felt very authentic to me, and written with a very keen eye and a genuineness to understand. I think that is what I loved about reading the relationship between Caroline and Dylan, and I loved how she feels she’s the reason he was kidnapped, and how she in some ways, wants to atone for what happened.
This novel is impeccability researched and is constantly thoughtful of its every move. I really loved both main characters, I loved how fleshed out their families were given the circumstances of what happened to Ethan and Dylan, and I think just reading about the afterwards of something so horrific is unique and interesting in itself. I am so thankfully that these situations are rare, but it doesn’t make these kinds of stories any less important.
If you love tough!YA and want to read a beautiful, heartbreaking story that offers the reader so much in terms of subject matter, then Afterward is the kind of book you need in your life. Upon finishing the book it left me reflecting on the story and its characters, and even when it ended, there was a part of me that didn’t want to let go to these characters.
Jennifer Mathieu, I think I’m a fan for life. Thank you for these stories and sharing these voices.