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Review: Afterward

Jennifer Mathieu - Afterward
Expected publication: September 20, 2016 by Roaring Brook Press
Genres: Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Find on: Amazon, Book Depository, Goodreads
Rating: 3.5/5

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.
I adored Jennifer's debut The Truth About Alice, so only naturally, I was glowing when I received an E-ARC of her latest YA.

Four years ago, Caroline's younger brother, Dylan, and a local boy are kidnapped. When they're found in the same building, held captive by the same perpetrator, mostly okay, it's a pure miracle. Unfortunately, Dylan and Ethan's injuries are discovered to be more internal. Mental. Dylan has frequent nightmares and repeats an ominous quote. Meanwhile, Ethan, who is considerably older, has suffered extensive memory loss. Their families orbit around them, troubled. Caroline, Dylan's sister, blames herself for the kidnapping. After Dylan's condition only worsens, she seeks out Ethan to see if he can help.

Jennifer Mathieu is a phenomenal writer and that's something I haven't forgotten from her debut. She's able to make you sympathize and relate with someone you wouldn't ordinarily expect to, including the lesser characters.

I was immensely bothered with the portrayal of autism. I assume the point of Jennifer's portrayal of Dylan was to show us a traumatic effect of a kidnapping on someone so young and she handled it okay, but whereas, Ethan was viewed as the miraculous survivor, she made Dylan seem like a basket case. With proper care and counseling (yes, I know, their family couldn't afford the latter. relax, I remember), he may be able to overcome. Dylan and Caroline's family could've handled their situation better, is all I'm saying. With or without counseling. I refuse to link to my Every Last Word review again.

Personally, I've know someone with autism since elementary school and he's one of the most intelligent boys I've ever known. I watched him finish a grand book trilogy and have many successful relationships. He's very, very passionate and quite blunt, actually. Because I'm not a child psychiatrist, I won't press this subject further. Just know, this is an inaccurate portrayal of something very real.

Also: Caroline was very unsympathetic toward Ethan. No offense, but I didn't really like her.
Regarding everything with Dylan, I did feel bad for her. Their family had been through a lot, too. But she was like: "Oh, his shoes are spotless. His drum kit cost, like, $1000. This glass cup is so nice." Um, he was held hostage for 4 years??? I think he deserves a little R&R. And when someone is so privileged, they don't really understand "poor people problems." I once had a friend toss a quarter into the fountain.

These days, I think many more books are becoming pro-therapy, but I think only few are getting it right. (i.e. Underwater) Fortunately, Afterward is one of them. Ethan has a fantastic therapist and a Golden Retriever, Groovy (Yes!), who routinely sits in on their sessions.

I was glad to see Ethan and Caroline didn't end the book as I predicted. I would've preferred a scene with them - at the very least - of Ethan re-meeting with Dylan or buying him an apology gift. Whatever. Okay book, nonetheless.


  1. Glad this was okay but sorry it wasn't better. have wanted to read the authors other book for a while now. This one sounds like it has some issues though. Great review!

    1. Thanks, Grace! Hope you still enjoy it. I still haven't read Devoted, her second book myself, but the Truth About Alice is phenomenal!

  2. From the blurb, Afterward sounds exactly like the kind of thing I would love to read, but I have to admit, that the treatment of autism could've been better, did make me pause. You clearly like this author, so i appreciate the honesty of your review.

    1. I do, Verushka! Thank you, that means a lot! I adored her debut, but how Ethan was viewed - given the seriousness of his condition - bothered me. I'll be looking forward to other reviews!

  3. I am SO pumped for this book!! I didn't want to read too much of your review bc I don't want to know too much. I'm hoping I like it better than you did though. I don't have personal ties to autism, but I could see how if you do, you would have a definite opinion on how it is portrayed.

    1. Totally understandable! Ahhhhh, I'm excited for your review, then! It still has its great points, though.

  4. I'm glad the therapy seemed genuine and showed the goodness therapy can give to its patients. Hmmm I wish Caroline were more sympathetic towards Ethan though, especially considering everything he's gone through ;(

    Rachel @ A Perfection Called Books

    1. Yeah, it was very pro-therapy and handled great, at that! I totally agree. Hope you still check it out! :D


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