Review: Afterward by Jennifer Mathieu

Sunday, September 4, 2016
Title: Afterward
Author: Jennifer Mathieu
Genre: contemporary
Series: N/A
Pages: 320
Published: expected Septemeber 20 2016
Source: ARC from publishers for review
Rating: 4/5

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.

With each book she successively publishes, author Jennifer Mathieu explores both the dark and light sides of humanity. Her books are stark, harsh, honest, and also hopeful. The worst of people is often the catalyst and the best of people is shown in how her wide array of characters fight/evolve/grow/escape their circumstances. From patriarchal cults to teenage slut shaming/rape culture to abuse and abduction, Mathieu handles tough subjects with sensitivity, knowledge, and aplomb.

There are two main characters in Afterward: Caroline, brash and worried, and Ethan, isolated and underexposed. They both are the anchors of the story and the way their different life paths intertwine and combine make theirs an emotionally rich, if occasionally strained, and long-building relationship. Each teen has tough circumstances to work through with heir individual family/history/the present; their issues are related but not the same, so they can't always help or relate one another. Both characters come off the page very well and easily; they feel and read like realistic teens.

Switching between the POVs of her two main characters, Mathieu painstakingly reveals what happened to Ethan before and to Dylan in the current timeline. I love the care and time taken to show how the two kids recover from their respective traumas and guilt. Therapy is shown in a positive light and Afterward takes pains to make sure the message of hope and forgiveness finds its way to not only the characters, but the audience.

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