Buy Not After Everything
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Reviewer: Melissa on September 16, 2015
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Michelle Levy’s debut YA novel, Not After Everything has been called gritty but hopeful love story about two struggling teens – great for fans of The Spectacular Now, Willow, and Eleanor and Park, and once you read it, you’ll understand why. Tyler has a football scholarship to Stanford, a hot cheerleader girlfriend, and a reliable army of friends to party with when the mood strikes. He seems to have everything a seventeen-year-old guy could want. But then his mom kills herself, and suddenly, nothing that he has seems to matter anymore. Now he needs to dodge his dad’s emotional and physical abuse, and earn what his dad refuses to share with him (money). Tyler finds a job that pushes him back into the life of Jordyn, a former childhood friend turned angry-loner goth-girl. With Jordyn, Tyler gets an unexpected reprieve from the pity party that his life has become, so how could he not fall for her? However, as his dad becomes even more brutally unpredictable, Tyler knows that he can’t risk bringing Jordyn too far into the chaos that is his life. Will Jordyn be able to show him the way to a hopeful future or after everything goes down, will Tyler have to find it for himself?
Since I started YABookShelf.com back in 2010, I’ve read a lot of contemporary YA novels that deal with depression, suicidal ideation, and a teen character experiencing grief over the loss of a friend or family member to suicide. They are important topics, in my opinion, for books to explore, so teens that are going through these situations (or know someone who is) can feel a little less alone. Therefore, when a publicist from JKS Communications contacted me about promoting Not After Everything during National Suicide Prevention Month in September, I immediately knew that I wanted to be a part of it especially when it was compared to two books I enjoyed: Tim Tharp’s The Spectacular Now and Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park. Today, I’m so glad that I followed my instincts about this one because not only was it a great story, but also it’s the only YA novel I’ve read that explores what it’s like for a male teen to go through the suicide of a parent. I’ve read other books where it’s a female MC in the same place, but the more books that do a good job on this topic, the more likely that it’ll find the reader who needs it desperately.
Two of the things that I loved most about Not After Everything were how authentic Tyler’s voice was and how well Levy understands what it means to be someone who is grieving for his mother’s sudden suicide. (And yes, I get that these points are interrelated, that without the latter, Levy wouldn’t have been able to deliver a convincing, three-dimensional character.) Not only does Tyler display the guilt and anger that everyone who has lost someone to suicide would understand, but also she doesn’t shy away from depicting the sexual parts of Tyler’s life in much the same way that Tharp developed the character of Sutter Keely. In other words, Tyler isn’t just a good female authored male POV, but also one that stands up to the kind of scrutiny that teens of either gender would give it and come out as believable.
If you’ve read the description, then you know that Not After Everything is not an easy read by any stretch of the imagination, but it is one that will stick with readers long after they finish the last page. Readers may find themselves crying at some points as I did when Tyler was able to connect with someone else who understands what he is going through, but it’s not all depressing. In fact, Levy demonstrates through Tyler’s character arc that there are some things to be hopeful about and even though he is going through a tough time doesn’t mean that he can’t be a source of strength for someone else when they need it. Moreover, Tyler experiences moments of real joy with and love from Jordyn, Henry, Kelly, and his mother’s dog, Captain. Together, in different ways, they make him realize that he isn’t stuck in this terrible existence, but if he wants to grab them, good things are waiting for him.
Not After Everything is a realistic depiction of the type of grief that a teen boy would experience if his mother committed suicide as well as the way it affects other people in the community. Michelle Levy doesn’t tie everything up in a perfect bow because that’s not the way life after suicide works, but it can get more hopeful, so she gives readers and Tyler the possibility to hope in a dark time, the joy of laughter during a period of sadness, and the opportunity for a rich and full life despite the “what ifs” and “whys” that might never go away completely.
Buy Not After Everything today and benefit from 21% off the regular price!