Ｒａｔｉｎｇ：★ ★ ★ ★ ★
＊Ｎｏｔｅ：I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Three years after losing her brother Luka in a school shooting, Skye Gilchrist is moving home. But there’s no sympathy for Skye and her family because Luka wasn’t a victim; he was a shooter.
Jesse Mandal knows all too well that the scars of the past don’t heal easily. The shooting cost Jesse his brother and his best friend–Skye.
Ripped apart by tragedy, Jesse and Skye can’t resist reopening the mysteries of their past. But old wounds hide darker secrets. And the closer Skye and Jesse get to the truth of what happened that day, the closer they get to a new killer.
✩ Skye was kind of broken at the beginning of the book and overcome with guilt and shame, but she became much stronger as she picked up the pieces of her old life.
✩ Jesse was more closed off and troubled than Skye, but he was also really caring and loyal.
❝ One nightmare month followed by six of mere hell. A period of shame and guilt, the feeling that I’d failed Luka. Or that I’d failed to stop Luka. There’s grief, too, but I bury that even faster. You aren’t allowed to grieve for someone like Luka. ❞
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book! All opinions are my own!
I was a little hesitant coming into the Aftermath because I expected it to be impactful, and I had to gear myself up for that trip. Which I’m glad I did because this book was a bit of a rollercoaster of feelings. I cried, I laughed, and I cried some more. It was actually that aspect of the book that I enjoyed the most because it had a little bit of everything.
There was also a really strong emphasis on the psychological element; there was so much detail about Skye’s (and to a lesser extent, Jesse’s) grief process. In particular, Skye also had to deal with pushing down her feelings because of her brother’s relationship to the shooting (i.e. being one of the shooters). It was just a cycle of guilt, shame, and anger followed by little brief moments of Skye’s old self surfacing.
It was really frustrating to read about all the hate that Skye and her family received. People just wished her the worst, assumed she had something to do with it, and just were horrible to her. But then you cut to her memories of her brother and all the pain and hurt, and it’s hard to not feel sympathetic for Skye’s inability to mourn her brother.
Although we didn’t get as many chapters from him, I loved reading from Jesse’s POV. He had his own complicated relationship with his brother that sometimes made it harder to mourn him I think than Skye and her brother. I liked that with her help he was finally able to give voice to his feelings in a way he never could with his parents. I also thought his chapters were a great way to reveal parts of the story that we had questions about.
❝ ” […] Sometimes, showing for compassion for others means doing things that are painful for us.” ❞
And then there was also Skye and Jesse’s relationship in general, which was another one of the reasons I felt so attached to this book. I was rooting for them to overcome their personal obstacles and reconnect throughout the whole book. Their friendship was so supportive and brought out the best in one another. I really enjoyed seeing how they made that journey back to being more like themselves. I think it’s hard to say they fully recovered but they picked up some pieces and recreated themselves.
And of course, there was the mystery element that kept me guessing until the end. There were things that didn’t make sense about the shooting, questions that begged to be answered, and just strange things happening to Skye that kept me glued to every page. I liked that there was a balance between the mystery and Skye’s struggle to adjust to coming back home.
As for the plot itself, I loved the direction it took! As I said, there were so many issues going on in this book–from Skye dealing with harassment, personal character development, self-healing, etc–but there was always a good balance among them. I liked that the plot kind of sneaked up on you in a way. At first, it stepped aside to focus on the characters and their struggles, then slowly things escalated and with it, the plot took more of the foreground.
The ending was partly expected–especially with how Skye felt about her brother–but it was still one I could enjoy. I liked that we got to see her old self really shine in the ending and that we got some resolution between the past and present. And I also loved the irony of the ending because if not for the antagonist taking matters into their own hands, Skye might never have been able to grow as much as she did throughout the story.
Overall, I think this a book that deals with some sensitive topics (i.e. school shootings), but I think it’s about more than just tragedy, it’s about friendship, love, and self-healing. I would highly recommend this book for people that enjoy more serious YA books or that like psychological/emotional elements.
Aftermath was just released today, May 22nd! Go check it out!