Author: Kristin Harmel
Release Date: February 9, 2010
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Rating: 4 out of 5
It’s been 9 months since Lacey’s father died in a car accident, 9 months since her life had any semblance of normalcy. Her mother has buried herself in work, trying to spend as little time as possible with the family. Lacey’s older brother Logan is angry all the time and her younger brother has retreated inward. Lacey feels like she’s the only one paying attention to what’s going on in her family and has no idea how the world will be made right again, especially since she believes she is responsible for her father’s death.
After is a touching book about a teen’s grief after the death of her father. Lacey’s a very believable teenager; her emotions are complicated and jumbled. Sometimes she finds escape from her grief in the mundane, but then she feels guilty for even finding a moment’s worth of happiness. I just loved how honest Harmel was with the reader about Lacey. She’s not perfect and doesn’t act that way, yet she’s incredibly appealing and wonderfully drawn.
This book is also a great look at how the death of a parent changes a teenager. Lacey feels like an outcast after her father dies, and there are those around her school who prey on her grief. Additionally, she begins to take more responsibility on herself, trying to fill in for her absent mother and also helping others who are dealing with a similar kind of loss. This is a book that would be wonderful for a teenager dealing with this kind of tragedy, to help them sort through their feelings.
Though After is about a serious subject, Harmel makes sure never to drag the reader down with the novel’s weightiness. There were definitely times I teared up during this book, especially towards the end, but at the heart of this novel is hope, rather than pain. The novel centers around the faith that everything will turn out okay, even if it’s not clear how that’s possible at the moment. It’s a touching, moving novel that I definitely recommend!