ARC Review: Afterward

Afterward

 

I knew going in to this book that it would not be like other Jennifer Mathieu books. I knew it would be amazing and a strong story, but I was not prepared for just how much this story would sink its claws into me and hold on.

Ethan was 11 years old when he was kidnapped. He went for a bike ride and never came home. He had the most horrible and terrible things happen to him while being by a horffic man.  Four years later, Ethan is still being held against his will when he is forced to help his capture take another small boy, an 11 year old named Dylan. What they do not realize is that Dylan is non-verbal low-functioning autistic. He is not able to speek properly so he screams a lot and repeats a lot of what he hears, that is it. Dylan is only missing for a few days when a concerned neighbor spots the boys being unsupervised and calls the police. That leads to both Ethan and Dylan being rescued and returned to their families. That is when this story really takes off. This story is about how Ethan and Dylan both try to cope with what happened to them, as well as showing how both families were affected. Soon, Dylan’s sister, Caroline, becomes friends with Ethan. They develop a beautiful friendship that allows both to grow and start to heal.

This story was so much more intense and powerful than I was prepared for. It told the untold story of how a kidnapping affects not only the people taken, but the families. Plus, it shows just how hard it is for everyone to find a way to get back to “normal”. I immediately felt my heart going out to Ethan as his story was told. What Ethan went through was unimaginable, but what he went through after he was rescued was just as difficult. I did like how Ethan’s therapy was written into the story. For once, therapy was put into a positive light and spoken about in a good way. That almost never happens in stories now a days. I also really, really enjoyed how there was not a massive infodump at the beginning of the story about what happened to Ethan and Dylan. Instead, the reader learns what happens throughout the book. But you only are given bits at a time. There is never a need to go into full detail but just enough that you have to let your imagination fill in the blanks.

Caroline’s character was so well thought out and developed that she felt like someone I may have known in real life. She felt real. Her struggle was one tugged at my heart strings. She didn’t come from the same family as Ethan’s so she didn’t have the same resources to help with healing. Her family was struggling to make ends meet and her parents were fighting all of the time. Neither of them wanted to accept or acknowledge what happened to Dylan, instead they wanted to sweep it under the rug. This story goes to prove that kidnapping and bad things can happen to any family, regardless of their status.

The one thing that stood out to me the most about this story was that there was no romance, no love triangle, no instalove, nothing like that. Instead, this was a story about how powerful and necessary friendship can be. It was friendship that helped both Ethan and Caroline on the path to recovery.  Friendship is what brought out the truth to Caroline about what happened to Dylan. Friendship is what kept Ethan and Caroline friends to the very end of the book.

I am still so blown away by this powerful story. I really hope everyone gives it a chance. It really is an amazing book and Mathieu has a wonderful way with words. Please, add this to your TBR now.

 

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