Title: After Ever After
Author: Jordan Sonnenblick
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Number of Pages: 272
This sequel to Sonnenblick’s tragicomic Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie follows Steven’s younger brother Jeffrey after he has gone into remission from leukemia. Left with a pronounced limp and brain damage from chemotherapy, Jeffrey isn’t a good student and frequently ‘phases out’ of conversations. He’s particularly challenged in math and when a new law comes out mandating that a student must pass a test separate from his yearly schoolwork to graduate, Jeffrey finds himself between a rock and a hard place.
To make matters worse, Jeffrey’s brother Steven has run off to ‘find himself’ in a drum circle in Africa and is not exactly communicative. Jeffrey wants to be able to talk to his brother about his hopeless crush on the new girl in school and his fears of relapsing into serious illness, he has to settle on his sarcastic tough-love dealing best friend Tad instead. Tad also had cancer and uses sarcasm and meanness to cope with his vulnerabilities, and he’s more significantly disabled than Jeffrey. Together they navigate an existence where both are keenly aware of their mortality.
Jeffrey is probably a more likable character than Steven from Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie or Alex from Notes From the Midnight Driver. He’s self-deprecating and down-to-earth and strong when it comes to dealing with a daily reality his classmates can only imagine. The book came at an interesting time for me because I’m trying to get my GED (at twenty-seven) and I’m severely challenged in math. It’s so frustrating when you’re more or less decent at everything else and I related to Jeffrey’s struggle to get by academically with a learning disability.
One of the reasons I don’t give Jordan Sonnenblick’s books higher ratings (even though they’re very entertaining) is because all the main character’s voices sound very similar. Because of this it’s easy for all his books to run together in your mind. I’ve got to admit, I was kind of disappointed in Steven after getting a full book from his perspective. He acted flaky and irresponsible and he really hurt Jeffrey and let him down.
I also know what it’s like to have brother issues and feel like a burden to your family so this was also thoroughly relatable. Even though I’ve obviously never had cancer or gone through something even close to that, some parts in this book hit close to home in small ways and that’s why I gave it a slightly higher rating than the other books I’ve read by this author. I recently got Falling Over Sideways from the library so I’m going to try to read that soon, I’m curious about what he’ll do differently while writing a female protagonist.