Afterward by Jennifer Mathieu

A poignant story of two families struggling through the first year after their kidnapped sons are found and returned home. Dylan, an 11 yr old with autism, was held for four days, but being largely non-verbal is unable to tell anyone what happened to him. The other victim is Ethan, taken when he was 11 and held for 4 years. He remembers a lot but his mind has blocked the hardest parts out.                                                                                              
The point of view alternates with chapters told by Ethan and Caroline, Dylan's older sister. They don't know each other, but one day Caroline's curiosity gets the better of her and she bikes over to Ethan's house, hoping he might be able to tell her something of what Dylan experienced those four days he was missing. They become unlikely friends who, through their shared interest in music, are able to help each other face the worst.

Ethan's family sends him to a therapist - my favourite character in this book - a compassionate, intelligent man who gently gives the boy a safe place to speak of unspeakable things. As Ethan is able to express the emotions and fears that paralyze him, he begins to remember agonizing details, bringing him to a difficult choice: tell Caroline what he knows about her brother's abduction and risk losing her friendship, or try to stay friends with a terrible secret hanging over them. 

As difficult as the subject matter is, this book is really about recovery and hope. As the heartbreaking truth comes to light and gets more disheartening to read, it's balanced by the healing that facing it brings. The overall tone of the book becomes one of encouragement rather than despair. The pacing is good, with revelations coming in small increments to keep the story moving and some tension building. The characters are well developed, the dialogue is good and it comes to a satisfying conclusion. I would like to have read more about Dylan and his progress though. His part of the story felt unfinished.


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