Thursday, September 8, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Afterward by Jennifer Mathieu

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. The scheduled publication date for this book is September 20, 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.

This was such a beautiful book. Four years ago, Ethan was kidnapped. Caroline's brother, Dylan, was kidnapped several months ago and they are able to find him and Ethan. Dylan is autistic and can't communicate about what happened. Meanwhile, Ethan gets so much judgment from the press and he feels guilty because he thinks he should have been able to escape at some point. Caroline and Ethan meet because Caroline wants to try to get some information on what happened to her brother so she can help him. Instead, they actually become friends. The chapters are split into Caroline's POV and Ethan's. The chapters also start with exactly how many days it's been since Ethan and Dylan were rescued so we can see the progression and the changes they go through.

Ethan was a very sympathetic character. There was so much guilt with him: guilt for not trying to escape, guilt for what his captor did, guilt for not helping Dylan enough. His parents were the most loving and awesome parents. When Ethan comes back, his mom is crazy overprotective and doesn't ever want to let him out of her sight. Make sense though, right? Ethan kind of puts up with it because he doesn't want to hurt her any more than he thinks he has. My favorite part of Ethan's chapters were his therapy sessions. His therapist was AMAZING!! The therapist even has a Golden Retriever that routinely sits at Ethan's feet during his sessions. How cool is that? Dogs just make everything better. Ethan's therapist was so patient and calm and he seemed to know exactly what Ethan needed to hear. Some books just don't do the therapy relationship enough justice, but this author did it very well.

Caroline's family life and her parents were a bit of a contrast to Ethan's. First of all, Caroline's family didn't have much money so they couldn't afford therapy. Second of all, while Caroline's mom had the best of intentions and while it was obvious that she loved her kids, her way was to try to pretend nothing had happened and hope that Dylan just got better. Maybe that was made easier by the fact that Dylan was nonverbal, so he couldn't really talk about his experience anyway. But with all of the attention that Caroline's mom was putting on Dylan, she kind of neglected Caroline a bit. I kind of hated her dad though. He just worked all the time and there were hints that maybe he was more disappointed that Dylan was autistic than anything. That was a bummer. He neglected both of his kids and basically ignored Dylan, so Caroline and her mom had to do everything for him themselves. Caroline also carried her own guilt, just like Ethan. Caroline felt responsible for the fact that Dylan was taken at all.

I was afraid that the author would go for a romantic relationship between Caroline and Ethan, but I am SO GLAD that did not happen. Neither of them needed anything romantic. I loved how easy and comfortable their friendship was. They just played music together and got to know each other and it helped. This story of how two families were affected by this kidnapping and the different ways they deal with it and how it changes everyone and everything was so incredibly moving. It's so hard for Caroline and Ethan to try to move past what happened and try to overcome this huge trauma. But there is so much character development here and there is a lot of hope at the end of it. This is a must read!

Buy/Borrow/Skip: Buy this one!

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