AfterMath by Emily Barth Isler

AfterMath by Emily Barth Isler. Carolrhoda Books, 2021. 9781541599116

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or starred review) 4

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Realistic fiction

What did you like about the book? Lucy and her parents have moved to a new town to escape the place where they lived when her little brother Theo was alive. Theo died of a congenital heart condition and his loss permeates everything they do. Lucy’s parents are emotionally unavailable to her as they deal with their own grief. Moreover, while Lucy’s parents still work their same DC jobs, Lucy is attending a new school where she must start over. And here’s the toughest part: the school was the site of a devastating school shooting four years ago. Her bedroom was the bedroom of one of the victims and Lucy’s 7th grade classmates are the survivors…including the younger sister of the shooter, Avery. Lucy befriends Avery despite the fact that she’s been ostracized since the incident four years prior. What follows is an honest look at the difficulty of moving on after trauma and yet in the face of so much public grief, Lucy keeps her own hurt about her younger brother’s death a secret until her silence is breached.

AfterMath is beautifully written and a powerful look at community-wide grief. Lucy and her peers are introduced to different ways to express their feelings such as mime, poetry, and more. Every chapter starts with a math problem that relates to the chapter in some way and Lucy and her father trade cheesy math jokes as a way of connecting. Includes an author’s note and discussion questions.

Anything you did not like about the book? Some readers will find it very sad in parts and may think that the problems tied up too quickly and neatly in the end. 

To whom would you recommend this book? Students who like emotional books that explore grief will love this book.

Who should buy this book? All elementary and middle school libraries and all public libraries

Where would you shelve it? Realistic fiction

Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Maybe?

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Laura Gardner, Dartmouth Middle School, Dartmouth, MA

Date of review: November 29, 2021

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