Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Mathieu, Jennifer. Afterward.

Mathieu, Jennifer.  Afterward.  Macmillan/Roaring Brook Press  2016  310p $17.99  ISBN 978-1-62672-238-5     hs/adult  Realistic fiction  E-BN           

What a powerful topic Jennifer Mathieu has taken on in her new novel.  “Edgy” is just one of the descriptive words one could use to describe the plot.  As in her novel Devoted, in which she did a stellar job with the topic of oppression of females by a religion in the deep South, this time she attacks the topic of child abduction and its aftermath.  Indeed, it is beyond traumatic for a normal boy to be abducted; this time, another boy is taken by the same kidnapper, and he is autistic.  When both boys are recovered alive, Ethan Jorgenson can be helped by therapy.  But how does one help a child with autism who is largely nonverbal?  It is difficult, to say the least, and the reader is not surprised when the parents of the young autistic boy split.  The strain of raising a child with autism is enough to put any marriage out of commission.  When that same child is abducted and then recovered alive, and tries to make sense out of what happened to him, it is devastating to his family.  Dylan’s sister Caroline approaches Ethan to try to find out what “damn, cake” means.  These words, uttered by her brother in times of stress, must mean something.  Caroline’s hope is that Ethan will be able to help her as she tries to understand what her brother experienced at the hands of a kidnapper and sexual predator.  As he explains to Caroline, Ethan’s memory is sketchy.  He has so much to cope with after his return:  media, questions about why he did not try to escape during his four years in captivity, lack of schooling, nightmares, distrust issues with his new psychiatrist, and quandaries about how to resume friendships and create new ones.  Music brings Caroline and Ethan together, and as odd as their new friendship may seem to others, they bring solace to each other, until Ethan recalls something that puts that friendship at risk.  Readers new to Mathieu will find her to be a powerful storyteller who is not afraid to tackle more mature topics.  Established fans will be drawn into this new book quickly, and they will read it voraciously from cover to cover.        

Summary: No one has forgotten about the abduction of Ethan Jorgenson. When eleven-year-old Dylan Anderson goes missing from the same town, the search for the missing boys ends when a pick-up truck matching the description of the abductor’s is seen.  In this novel, what happens during the aftermath of such a heinous crime is described in realistically disturbing detail.           

Kidnapping-Fiction, Autism-Fiction                                                              —Martha Squaresky

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