not after everything book coverReviewed by Carrie Ardoin

First things first, this review will come with a TRIGGER WARNING because of the themes of suicide, child and animal abuse, and other sensitive topics. Not After Everything is not light reading, and it’s not something that will put you in a great mood.

Tyler Blackwell’s perfect-from-the-outside life came crashing down the summer before his senior year, when his mother committed suicide. No one knew that Tyler’s alcoholic father had been abusing both Tyler and his mother for as long as he could remember, and that the beatings had gotten so bad that his mom saw no other way out but to kill herself. Tyler, who had been a football star, girl magnet, and amazing student, saw all that go away when he found his mother in the bathtub bleeding out.

As Tyler starts his senior year, he has nothing to motivate him. His cheerleader girlfriend seems remarkably shallow, football holds no appeal for him anymore, and he’s so withdrawn that he has shut out all his friends. Not to mention, he still has to live with his father, who is still beating up on him and getting drunk every night. Tyler gets out of the house a few days a week by getting a job, and unexpectedly he finds some purpose there…and the comfort of an old friend.

Now, you may think a book with such heavy themes shouldn’t have any romance involved. Usually, I would agree with you. But, this isn’t a typical contempary YA girl meets boy then saves him storyline. Tyler reconnects with Jordyn on his new job; they were friends as kids but grew apart. They have to learn about one another again after so many years and so much has happened. This is not a fast moving romance, though there are some cliche and predictable parts.

The best parts of the book, in my opinion, are the ones that deal with Tyler facing all his demons. Whether through his therapy sessions or just his own introspection, he slowly moves through his grieving process. No one has the right to say he did it incorrectly, because there is no one way to deal with grief. I believe this is such an important thing for teen readers to learn. I’m still learning this myself at 30 years old.

As I stated, there are some rather hard parts to read where Tyler is being physically and emotionally abused, so if you are sensitive to that type of thing in any way, I would not recommend this book to you. But I am glad the author did not gloss over these events or mention them in passing, because going through what Tyler went through makes you feel closer to him as a character.

This book does have some typical teenage romance drama, some predictable events, but the ending was blessedly unexpected and I am assuming will leave many readers unsatisfied. I thought it was beautiful, though. Tyler got what he needed to get him through the most difficult part of his life so far, even though it was a terrible struggle to get there. I think his story is worth reading.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Carrie runs the blog Sweet Southern Home, and is a stay at home wife and mom to one little boy. When she’s not reading, she’s usually watching Netflix with her husband, playing outside with her son, or baking. Her family would describe her as sometimes annoyingly sarcastic, but mostly lovable. 

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Dial Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.