This book broke my heart, and nobody is talking about it. That is so not fair. I want everyone else to read this book so they can be just as miserable as I am, because this book absolutely shredded me-- and it is so, so, worth it. Seriously, am I even allowed to give out this many positive ratings in a row? Pretty sure I'm going to lose my McComplainy badge if I don't start being just a teensy bit more obnoxiously picky, per usual. But EVERY MOMENT AFTER grabbed me from the first chilling scene and wouldn't let me go.
This is a book that everyone in the United States needs to read. It's about a small town facing the aftermath of a devastating shooting that resulted in the deaths of a bunch of first graders. The survivors of that class are now high school seniors, and at their graduation there is a row of empty, black-cloaked seats. The two narrators, Cole and Matt, are both wreaked with survivor's guilt and facing a litany of diagnosed mental health disorders as well as physical ones (hand injury and diabetes).
Cole was on the cover of the magazine chronicling the horrible event, carried out of the school in the arms of a policeman. He doesn't remember anything about that day (probably dissociative amnesia), but the tragedy has left its mark on him-- he's withdrawn and socially anxious. He wants to impress the girl he likes, but keeps pulling back. Self-destructive impulses make him push people away and even get him involved in light drug-dealing. He's filled with anger that has nowhere to go, and his father's recent passing after a bitter and painful fight with cancer has only added to the tragedy.
Matt has type 1 diabetes, and that's the reason he was staying home on the day when several of his classmates died. His brush with death has made him obsessed, and he asks everyone he knows about the details, over and over again, seemingly unable to stop. He's never fully recovered, psychologically, and seems to have untreated depression, as he has suicidal ideation, and feels guilt for just being alive. This guilt soon blossoms into risk-taking behaviors, such as not taking his medication, getting into a relationship with an older, off-limits woman, and alcohol-abuse. Every one keeps telling him how lucky he is for being rich and good-looking, but all he feels is raw pain.
The characters in EVERY MOMENT AFTER don't purport to be perfect. They are flawed, often unlikable individuals with really serious problems, and often behave in unlikable ways. That's what makes them feel so real, though. The foolish decisions they make feel like the things a really troubled teenager might do if they were struggling to lash out. It also takes one of the most grim and realistic views of the aftermath of gun violence that I have ever seen. One of the reviewers for this book applauded the author for not showing the violence or the perpetrator in the book itself, and I really agree with her opinion; I think it's important to not accord people who commit violence with attention, and instead focus on those who are hurting: innocent kids, their parents, and the community. Moldover even touches upon the debate of gun control, and manages to show, without being heavy-handed at all, the damage that possession of weapons can do in the wrong hands.
I loved EVERY MOMENT AFTER. It was wrenching, raw, and real, and pitch-perfect in a time of political turmoil where the debate for gun control keeps coming up again and again. Students should not go to school and feel afraid; and they should never be forced to grow up to relive that pain and suffering for every moment after the tragedy. This book communicates this beautifully, and its haunting message of despair and hope will both break you and put you back together again.
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!
4.5 out of 5 stars