Book Review: Not After Everything

Not After Everything
Published By: Dial
Publication Date: August 4, 2015
Page Count: 304
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via NetGalley
Audience: Young Adult - Contemporary

Tyler had a seemingly perfect life to everyone on the outside: a scholarship to Stanford, amazing grades, a starting position on the football team, a beautiful cheerleader girlfriend, and lots of friends. He was the golden boy. The one in high school who catches everyone's eye because of his good looks and charm. Underneath the perfect exterior, Tyler's life is anything but perfect. His father is verbally and physically abusive while his mother spirals deeper into depression rather than leave. Tyler throws himself into his schoolwork and football to avoid being at home, but when he finds his mother dead in the bathtub after slicing open her wrists with a razorblade, everything in Tyler's world changes.

Tyler blames himself for his mother's suicide. He feels that if he hadn't been so focused on football, friends, his girlfriend, and Stanford, he would have noticed his mother crying out for help. Tyler cannot forgive himself for letting his mother suffer at the hands and words of his father. He feels that he should have stepped up and done more. He begins to withdraw from everything that previously mattered so much: he quits the football team, he starts skipping his classes, he leaves behind his best friend, and breaks up with his girlfriend. To make matters worse, Tyler's father refuses to care for him in any way. Tyler must get two jobs to buy food and basic necessities on top of gas and car insurance. In virtually every way, Tyler is on his own. In addition to the pressure to provide for himself, his father also increases the amount of abuse.

Things start to look up for Tyler when he starts working at a photo studio and finds himself face to face with an old friend from childhood, Jordyn. She is the only one who doesn't treat him like a piece of defective glass. Jordyn helps Tyler see that in spite of all the horrible stuff happening in his life, there is still hope.

Reading the parts about the abuse and neglect Tyler suffered was the most difficult part of this novel for me. Tyler's life is not one of those that many readers will envy; his story had my heart twisted into knots. I wanted to take him out of that house and away from that man; he deserves so much better. Jordyn and her family were truly Tyler's salvation, but I wish that Jordyn had handled things differently. I wish other characters had read the signs and stepped in to help Tyler.

I also had some trouble when Tyler went all typical teenage boy. It's always nice to see male narrator in YA, but I often am reminded that I don't really want to know every thought that goes through the teen male mind. Due to the sexual content, I wouldn't recommend this one for younger teens.

The ending was rough. It's realistic and I understood Levy's choice to end it this way, but I have to admit that it wasn't the way I wanted it to go.  

Prepare your heart and mind before tackling this one. It's well written and compelling, but the subject matters makes it a difficult read. I could only read this one in increments. I needed breaks to do something happier when things in Tyler's life got to be emotionally overwhelming. Not After Everything packs an emotional wallop while illustrating that there is a light even in the darkest of spaces.

One Last Gripe: Sheila got on my last nerve. She was such a drama queen and I don't think she really cared about Tyler. I was also livid when she started harassing Jordyn.

My Favorite Thing About This Book: Tyler and Jordyn's relationship

First Sentence: A thick, pink-polished fingernail strikes the edge of my desk - two succinct taps - and I look up from my poetic masterpiece right into Mrs. Hickenlooper's eyes.

Favorite Character: Jordyn

Least Favorite Character: Tyler's Dad

A gritty but hopeful love story about two struggling teens—
great for fans of The Spectacular NowWillow, and Eleanor and Park

Tyler has a football scholarship to Stanford, a hot girlfriend, and a reliable army of friends to party with. Then his mom kills herself. And Tyler lets it all go. Now he needs to dodge what his dad is offering (verbal tirades and abuse) and earn what his dad isn’t (money). Tyler finds a job that crashes him into Jordyn, his former childhood friend turned angry-loner goth-girl. She brings Tyler an unexpected reprieve from the never-ending pity party his life has become. How could he not fall for her? But with his dad more brutally unpredictable than ever, Tyler knows he can’t risk bringing Jordyn too deeply into the chaos. So when violence rocks his world again, will it be Jordyn who shows him the way to a hopeful future? Or after everything, will Tyler have to find it in himself?