I absolutely adored Afterward by Jennifer Mathieu. I loved her first two books, but I think this one might be my favorite so far. Caroline’s younger, autistic brother, Dylan, is kidnapped from their front yard. When he is found 4 days later, Ethan is also found. He was kidnapped from the same town more than 4 years earlier. Caroline knew Ethan, or at least knew of him, because they live in a small Texas town. When her parents refuse to acknowledge what happened to Dylan or get him help, Caroline decides to talk to the only person who might be able to explain what happened during those 4 days Dylan was gone. Ethan. But unfortunately, Ethan’s mind his repressed the memories in its own effort to cope with the trauma.
This book is written in alternating chapters from Caroline’s and Ethan’s points of view. As the two characters struggle with their own family situations and develop a friendship, details are revealed bit by bit. This book reminded me a little of Emmy & Oliver. I loved the friendship aspects. I thought the therapy sessions that Ethan attends seemed very realistic. And I enjoyed that Mathieu didn’t take things too far between Caroline and Ethan. Everything felt authentic in this story, and I completely devoured it. I had to force myself to save the last 100 pages until another day because I could have stayed up way too late trying to finish this book in one sitting. It’s that good.
While this is a YA book, there were some funny observations about parents and adults that made me chuckle internally as I was reading it. While the adult characters aren’t too prevalent in this book, they were very realistic as well. I saw myself in their actions – whether Mathieu was describing the adults who visited the family farm where Caroline works or whether she was recounting Caroline’s mothers instincts after an intense moment in her life. These details added something extra to the story for me.
My only complain was that Ethan and Dylan seemed like too similar of names, and I got them slightly mixed at when I first started the book. Otherwise, this book was perfection for me. I know I’ll read it again. Probably soon.
Rating: 5 Stars
Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This fact does not in any way impact my thoughts/feelings about the book.