by Jennifer Mathieu
Published on September 20, 2016
by Roaring Brook Press
Source: ARC from publisher for review
Synopsis from Goodreads: 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.My take: This was the first book I've read by Jennifer Mathieu but it will not be my last! Afterward was subtle and deeply moving! This is the second book I've read this month about kids who were kidnapped and then returned home (the other was The Lost and the Found.) Similar premises, but completely different stories -- and I enjoyed them both.
While The Lost and the Found was more of a suspense story, Afterward was about two families recovering from an unimaginable trauma: each had a son who was abducted, then returned to his family. The story is told in two POVs: that of Ethan, the first kidnapping victim, and also Caroline, whose autistic younger brother was later taken by the same kidnapper.
There were many things to appreciate about this book. Ethan's POV was so very moving -- he started out fragile and broken but after time and a lot of therapy, gained so much perspective and confidence. His therapy sessions were fascinating and heartbreaking (his therapist reminded me of Dr. Berger in Ordinary People). Caroline has her own challenges. She was supposed to have been watching her brother when he was kidnapped, and harbors a lot of guilt and self-blame about what happened. While Ethan's family is upper-middle class, Caroline's family is struggling both financially and emotionally. Neither she nor her brother has the luxury of therapists or a lot of familial support.
Caroline and Ethan develop an uneasy bond that develops into a friendship that helps them both process and recover from what happened to them.
Highly recommend this to readers who like stories with a lot of subtlety and psychological depth!