Afterward is a YA realistic fiction book. When 11-year-old Dylan is kidnapped, his rescue also saves 15-year-old Ethan, a teenager who was living with Dylan and his captor. Ethan was kidnapped four years earlier when he went on a bike ride and never returned. Dylan has autism and is non-verbal. He is not adjusting well at home and is traumatized. His sister, Caroline, really wants to help him, but Dylan cannot tell her what happened or how to help. The only person who knows what really happened is Ethan.
Ethan blames himself for not escaping earlier when he had the chance, and Caroline blames herself for Dylan's kidnapping, since she was supposed to be watching him the day he was taken. While they both have the kidnapping in common, they also have something else in common- Ethan and Caroline both need a friend.
The thing that I did not like very much was the fact that the story started three months after Ethan and Dylan were returned to their families. I wish there was a scene of the police returning them to their families. I feel like there was not enough emotion from the kidnapping. Showing the amount of progress and adjustment would have been more beneficial if readers saw what they were like when they first got home. I also wish that there was a perspective from Dylan. Readers did not really get a feel for how hard his life was, and it was hard for me to connect with him. I would have loved to read what Dylan was going through.
At first Caroline and Ethan were only friends and hanging out because of the kidnapping, but overtime the friendship became real. It really shows how friendships can form in dark times. I am glad that there was not much romance. There was one scene where I thought the book was totally going in the wrong direction, but that path did not last for long.
The real background knowledge that we got was in Ethan's therapy sessions with Dr. Greenberg. There was so much emotion. Ethan talked about what happened to him and had flashbacks. A real theme in the book was therapy. Caroline and her family were falling apart, and they did not have a therapist, but Ethan's whole family did. The book showcased how talking to people can help their problems. Caroline felt a lot better after venting to Ethan sometimes. There was a lot of internal conflict. Afterward had more internal conflict than any book I have read.
Ethan and Caroline both had a heavy share of guilt, blame and frustration. Caroline's burden was about how to help her brother, not watching Dylan close enough, and her parents splitting up. Ethan's burden was guilt about not running away all the times he had the chance, and he wrestled with memory issues and talking to Caroline. The only answers Caroline could possibly get were from Ethan, but the answers she wants are horrible. I loved that they played music. It distracted them from their problems, and at times was hilarious.
I recommend that you read this book!
Author: Jennifer Mathieu
Publisher: Roaring Book Press
Rating: 4 Stars