Mathieu, Jennifer. Afterward. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2016. Print.
Image from: www.fiercereads.com
I got this book this year at TLA--on Wednesday. I had it read before Friday. The story is compelling and heartbreaking and scary and horrific, yet it is also hopeful. The teaser on the front cover captured my attention: "Ethan went on a bike ride. Four years later, he came home." I thought it was going to be a murder/mystery type book. It has some mystery elements, and I found myself reading like a detective trying to put clues together to create the full story, but it's not like a detective story in a traditional sense. Ethan's story is revealed as his brain allows the memories to surface. He's been through a traumatic experience. He's seeing a psychiatrist to help him deal with returning home.
This is Mathieu's third published book. I read the first one (The Truth About Alice) and bought her second one (Devoted), but I haven't read it yet.
Summary (from back cover): "When Caroline's little brother is kidnapped, his rescue leads to the discovery of Ethan, a teenager who has been living with his kidnapper since he was a young child himself. Caroline wonders what Ethan knows about all that happened to her brother. And Ethan can't see Caroline without experiencing a resurgence of traumatic memories. But they live in the same small Texas town, and after the media circus surrounding the kidnappings departs and the families are left to pick up the pieces, both Caroline and Ethan need a friend, and their best option might be each other."
I didn't slow down enough to mark many pages. I marked some plot things that I thought I might want to refer back to as the story progressed---little threads that would tie it all together. The story is a little mystery, but I would describe it as compelling. I had to learn what happened. How & why did Dylan, a boy with autism, get kidnapped? What is Ethan doing there? Will Ethan's therapy (upon returning home) actually help him? Will his parents ever be "normal" again? [Side note--Ethan's mom cracks me up! I can see her checking every few minutes, to the point of smothering, but I understand why. She's lost her boy and he's returned. I'm not sure I'd ever let my child out of my sight again.]
Ethan & Caroline's friendship seems believable. Through music (and their budding friendship), they are dealing with what's happened. At first, I thought this friendship was unrealistic, but as the story continued, I could see the truth of this friendship. It is not fairy tale perfect, which makes it real. They argue and step away from each other. They come together. They talk about nothing and don't talk about the things they should. There are walls and boundaries and respect.
This book releases in September. I already know some kids I will share this book with before my library gets the "official" copy.