Cover Image: AfterMath

AfterMath

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Member Reviews

Thank you to @netgalley @lernerbooks  #CarolrhodaBooks for the digital ARC in return for my honest review. 
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My thoughts…
💛😭💛 Feeling all the feels. This is Isler’s debut novel, and it was a study in grief and coping. The idea for this book came to the author after the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, in 2015. She wrote the draft before the shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in 2018. All you really need to read, to pick up this up was what Amy Schumer thinks of this book: “This book is a gift to the culture." Do NOT pass it by just because it’s a middle grade fiction. This was a powerful book about grief, healing, friendship and family. And as someone who works in children and youth mental health, this is a great book to open dialogues about mental health and mental health stigma.
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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the e-arc of After/Math by Emily Barth Isler.

I absolutely devoured this book. After coming out of a bit of a reading slump I picked this up and read it in a day and devoured 75% in one sitting. I also bawled my eyes out while reading this book.

This book is about grief in all of its forms. Grief and loss and how it doesn't matter how it happened just that it did and you are allowed to grieve.
Lucy is entering Grade 7 and her parents have just moved into another state in hopes to outrun the grief they have for the loss of their young son. The town that they move into had an elementary school shooting four years prior making the students that were effected by this shooting Lucy's age. In a town where it seems that all of Lucy's schoolmates have trauma where does she fit in with her own grief about the loss of her little brother?

I enjoyed this book and while it saddeneds me that this type of book is necessary for younger children to have available I am glad that it is. I think that this book teaches a powerful lesson about grief and how it can affect everyone differently and how nobody is perfect, including the parents. Lucy's mom says that this is the first time she has had a twelve year old, the first time she's been forty-four and so on and she is still trying to figure it out herself let alone expecting Lucy to have it all figured out which I think can be a powerful idea for children to have.
This book may need to be delicately introduced, especially if trauma is there for a child, but I think it could be very helpful for someone going through the same thing to have something to relate to.
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AFTERMATH was a moving middle grade book about a 12-year-old girl, Lucy, who's at a new school after her younger brother dies of a heart defect -- except everyone else in her grade is processing their own grief and trauma from surviving a school shooting four years prior. This book tackles some heavy subjects, but it does so with an unmistakable middle grade voice that manages to balance out some scary things with humor and friendship; what results is that the book trusts its readers to be able to consider the subjects at hand, while keeping the sense of hope that's so common in middle grade books.

Thank you to NetGalley and Lerner Publishing Group for the ARC.
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I continue to be amazed by the quality of middlegrade realistic fiction, and the important issues that books such as this one tackle head on.

AfterMath is a touching middlegrade novel that does not shy away from serious topics such as gun violence, loss of a family member, grief, and loneliness. This book pulled at my heartstrings and I empathized greatly with the main character. Lucy is in the seventh grade, and she's recently lost her younger brother to a heart condition. Dealing with grief amidst this tragedy, her parents move them to a new town. Lucy ends up at a school that is no stranger to trauma and loss, as her fellow classmates are survivors of a mass shooting.

This book is an important one. For adolescents, but also for all ages. Lucy feels alone, unable to connect with her new classmates, and unable to open up to her own grief-stricken parents. She finds solace in math, the kind of math that has a concrete answer, rather than vague math concepts such as infinity. She makes a friend at school and joins an extracurricular activity after school. She doesn't want anyone to know about her own loss, as she feels that it pales in comparison to the magnitude of the mass shooting that her classmates experienced.

There are scenes that made me so sad. An unplanned fire drill at school sends many of the students into a panic and highlights the trauma that these kids are dealing with. Lucy navigates so many difficult things but also has a crush on a classmate. I felt so much for her and for all the characters in this book. Excellent read!
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After her little brother dies of a heart defect, a seventh grader moves to a new town where everyone else in her class survived an elementary school shooting four years earlier. 

As a middle grade book about a school shooting, this book will be challenged (as many great books are) by adults who feel the content is inappropriate for upper-elementary and middle school students. As with any book about trauma and violence, there will be individual children who would find it unduly upsetting and won't be ready for it. But I believe AFTER/MATH is developmentally appropriate and relevant for readers in grades 5-8--children who, like the book's protagonist, have been getting glimpses of school shootings and gun violence in the news or through overhearing adult conversations. Although the characters bluntly share deeply disturbing (but realistic) memories of the shooting, because the novel is set years later and told through the eyes of a girl who experienced a different, less violent loss, the focus throughout the novel is not on violence but on grief, healing, and community. I would recommend this novel to mature middle grade readers, especially those in middle school.
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Such an important, heartwarming read. I can't believe this book is Isler's debut! I did not go into this knowing what to expect, and I love it.
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When I realized AfterMath was about a community several years after a school shooting - á la Sandy Hook - I thought surely this couldn't be appropriate for middle grade readers. But these things do happen in our society, and Emily Barth Isler gives younger children a hopeful map for dealing with their emotions in the aftermath. Following the death of her younger brother from a congenital heart defect, math whiz Lucy and her parents move to a new town "to start over". Upon starting 7th grade, Lucy finds that her classmates are survivors of a school shooting 4 years earlier, and she is struck by how readily and matter-of-factly they speak about it. Lucy finds it hard to fit in. Even though she has lost her brother, she knows her grief is not the same as the trauma suffered by her classmates, the trauma that makes it hard for them to let her in. Follow Lucy as she tries to make friends, finds math that she doesn't readily understand, and grows with her family as they process their grief. Despite the subject and the angst it brings, one can smile at the typical middle school growing pains throughout.
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There are not enough stars for this amazing book. I’ve got to internalise what I’ve read for a bit, before I can write a review that will do it justice.

Here goes…

	 Lucy’s brother, Theo,  was born with a rare heart condition. Little Theo dies at the age of five devastating the  family. Lucy’s father went to bed with his grief.  Eight months later they decide a big change is needed so the family abruptly uproots.    12-year-old Lucy Rothman’s grieving parents need a fresh start, and Lucy is expected to follow suit. Her  white Jewish family moves from Maryland to Queensland, Va. Queensland is no ordinary town. Rather, a town still deeply affected by a school shooting four years prior. Seventh grader Lucy’s tightly knit new classmates speak openly about their grief , leaving her  estranged from the group. Lucy decides to keep her own loss a secret. The fresh start leaves Lucy distanced from both her parents and peers. She is devastatingly lonely. She turns to math, once her favorite subject, and finds it no longer brings her comfort. She makes another decision, to sit at the lunch table with loner/outcast, Avery. Very quickly, Lucy learns Avery is the  school shooter’s much younger half sister. Now an outcast through no fault of her own Avery is lonely and bitter.  When the girls take an after-school mime class together, Lucy comes to realize that, though grief takes many forms, those affected can form connections. Lucy and Avery form a tight bond, that only those who have experienced death of a loved  one first hand can grasp. 
This very timely story portrays a keen understanding of loss.  The writing is honest and  sincere  as it showcases various responses to tragedy. For example, Lucy’s parents’ inability to talk about the past, the students’ collective need to share their stories, and encouragement of therapy. 
Readers will enjoy the scattered math quips…. What did 0 say to 8? Nice belt. and how many seconds in a year? 12, January 2nd, February 2nd, March 2nd…
I could write quotes from this beautifully  book all day, but I let you read it. 



Back matter includes an author’s note and discussion questions. Ages 10–14. Agent: Kari
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AfterMath was a great story of the ramification of loss in children, a topic that isn't often explored in middle grade books.
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AfterMath is a sensitively written coming-of-age novel by Emily Barth Isler. Due out 7th Sept 2021 from Lerner Books on their Carolrhoda imprint, it's 272 pages and will be available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

This is such a warm and thoughtful book for middle grades and older. Despite the heavy themes of sudden violent loss, death, trauma, grief, painful family and friendship relations, and the general upheaval of adolescence, there are moments of humor and fun woven throughout. The author has a real gift with writing that engages and informs without ever being maudlin or preachy. Although it has been decades since I was Lucy's age, I think the honesty of the writing will touch most readers whatever their age. 

The author's positive and supportive matter-of-fact discussion of mental health issues and support for grief and healing are vitally important. She touches on the upside-down roles of parents and the "problem free" kid in families with a seriously ill or dying sibling; and she does so in a genuine and realistic way. 

I liked the character portrayals. They were believable and the author wrote them as living breathing people. They weren't perfect and the adults didn't have all the answers. I especially loved Mr. Jackson, Lucy's math teacher. He's such a positively portrayed, engaged, caring, and intelligent character. I appreciated that the author wrote inclusive, respectful, and positive portrayals of other ethnicities and backgrounds. Representation is important. It felt brave of the author to tackle the issues which she did and she did them so well.

The audiobook is narrated by the author herself and has a run time of 5 hours 7 minutes. She does a stellar job of delineating the characters' voices and keeping them distinct from one another. I had no trouble keeping them separate in my head during listening.

Five stars. Genuinely important and well written middle grade book. I would recommend it for public and school library acquisition, reading groups, and home use. The book includes study question prompts for discussions in the back of the book. Potential trigger warnings, shooting death, discussion of grief and mental health issues, death of a child. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.
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Strong contender in the growing field of MG books focused on survivors of school shootings. 12 year old Lucy's family has moved to a new town following the death of Lucy's younger brother who succumbed to a heart defect. However the town the family has relocated to was the site of a horrific school shooting four years ago that resulted in the death and wounding of many elementary school students. While Lucy's parents hope that a community of parents who have also lost children might help them process their own grief, they do not consider how the town's collective trauma and grief will impact their daughter. The depictions of how different people process grief and trauma are interesting, particularly as it relates to the half-sister of the shooter (who Lucy, of course, almost immediately befriends). While Lucy's parents are both absolute wrecks, the school match and drama teacher provides an excellent adult confidant and role model.
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I received an electronic ARC from Lerner Publishing Group, Carolrhoda Books ® through NetGalley.
Barth Isler offers a look at death's aftermath (love the pun in the title). Lucy is the new girl trying to fit in after a move to a new town. It's even harder than usual as this town still suffers in the aftermath of a school shooting. The kids in her class all lost classmates and friends and some are still recovering psychologically from the event. Lucy has to cope with this from her first minutes in the building. They are a closed unit and Lucy finds one person to sit with at lunch. Avery is coping with her own challenges as her half-brother was the shooter. People have redirected their anger toward her or at least she feels that way. The two connect and find friendship and support for each other. Lucy finds the courage to share that she also lost a brother to a heart condition when he was five. A different type of death and the author offers thoughts that allow readers to decide for themselves if deaths should be compared.
The story flows and touches on deeply painful topics for middle grade readers. The traumatic responses to a fire alarm going off show how much healing is still to come for all of these kids.  Well presented story that will trigger much discussion.
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This is one of the best middle grade books that I've read in a long time, but it hurts my heart that it needed to be written in the first place. 

The book follows seventh grader Lucy, whose little brother just died from a congenital heart defect. Her parents, looking for a fresh start, move to a town devastated by a school shooting five years earlier. Lucy's new classmates are the survivors. 

I've never read a middle grade book that dealt with grief and trauma so well. The characters all cope with their traumas in different ways, and it helps kids understand that everyone grieves differently. It also has a really poignant lesson about gun violence, and it breaks my heart that so many kids will be able to relate to the shooting survivors.

Overall, this was an amazing middle grade read. It does handle some very mature and emotional content, so be sure to discuss with young readers in advance and be careful recommending this book to those who aren't emotionally ready for it.
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I requested this after reading the the synopsis and thinking it would be good to see what it was about. 
I have a middle schooler so I also like to read books targeted towards her to see what sort of thing she is reading. 
This was far better than I ever thought it was going to be.  I will happily have my child read this book. 

It is narrated from the middle schooler POV but it touches on important things adults can relate to as well.
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This book is brilliantly written and narrated. It is emotionally heavy with a sibling’s death and a school shooting. These are some hard topics to write about especially for kids and the author has done a wonderful job. I’m not sure how suitable it is for the middle graders. I absolutely loved the part about Lucy being a math geek and the way title included her love for math. Really clever. The characters felt very real with all that they were going through. This book is heartbreaking for an adult so I’m not sure about children reading but I think it’ll help children understand trauma and loss.

I love listening to audiobooks while I read the eBook or physical copy so I requested for the audiobook as well. It is narrated by the author herself. The narration is very clear which is what I expect in any audiobook. I’ll definitely recommend the audiobook.
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"I received a complimentary copy of this book through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own."
I love the play on words of the title and the overall cleverness of the writing. It also captured a variety of grief journeys interwoven with normal issues a middle schooler faces at home and at school. The audiobook version was well done and engaging.
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AfterMath is a well-written book on grief in its many forms. A young girl, Lucy, and her parents move to Virginia from Maryland after her younger brother dies from a rare heart disease. Her parents justify the move as an easier commute for them, but Lucy, who loses her friends, believes it is an attempt to escape pain. They are trying their best to heal from the loss of their child.

Lucy ends up in a middle school where most of the students are survivors of a grade school mass killing. It is a tough adjustment all around. I found it very easy to relate to Lucy’s need to protect herself and her heart.  More importantly, my middle school granddaughter easily put herself in Lucy’s shoes too.  While we didn’t experience the loss of a sibling, we have experienced devastating loss of close family members.  

AfterMath flows at a steady pace that grows as Lucy faces some challenges and a betrayal.  Lucy’s inner dialogue and use of math principles to explain her struggle, is effective in putting the reader in Lucy’s head.  Her pain and her parents’ attitudes are heartbreaking at times.  

"A square is a regular quadrilateral, which means that is has four equal sides and four equal angles. What happens when one side is gone? Is it still a square? No. If a family has four members, and one is gone, are we still a family?"

This an excellent book for teens and adults. My granddaughter and I listened to the story with the e-book to read along. The audio book is performed by the author, Emily Barth Isler.  She does an excellent job performing a story that must be near and dear to her heart. There are some political messages, but they are subtle. I'm not a fan of authors who hit the reader over the head with their political beliefs, whether I agree with them or not. 

AfterMath is an excellent book to read and/or listen if you or your family has experienced loss or to help initiate discussions about personal loss with family members.  I recommend the book for teens and adults alike.  

If you are an audiobook fan, this is a must listen.  

We both rate it 5 Stars.
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AfterMath is the story Lucy, whose family relocates to Virginia after her younger brother's death. Lucy's new classmates are the survivors of a school shooting that occurred several years before and are still dealing with the lasting effects of that horrific tragedy. The way the author portrayed the grief and struggles of the major characters' families felt very realistic.

I enjoyed the math references, and I can see readers who are more mathematically-oriented enjoying them as well. Lucy’s mindset during her struggles to understand the concept of infinity reminded me of thoughts that are common for many high-achieving students.

The relationship between Lucy and Avery seemed very typical of middle school friendships, especially those between seventh grade girls. This includes the unfortunate pettiness that is so common among girls in middle school.

I loved Mr. Jackson. It seemed as though he, like Lucy, was something of an outsider. I think this allowed him to better connect with students like Lucy and Avery. I loved that he was able to use his theater background and knowledge of nonverbal communication as a means of helping his students in the mime class process their grief.

The interactions between Lucy and her classmates at the beginning of her time at school in Queensland seemed really odd to me. I haven’t spent time with students who’ve experienced that sort of tragedy, but it just didn’t really ring true to the way seventh graders interact with one another.

Thank you to NetGalley and Carolrhoda Books for access to an ARC of AfterMath.
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Aftermath is an extremely powerful and deep story. As the synopsis explains, we are following Lucy as she struggles to come to terms over her brother’s death surrounded by children who have suffered their own loss and trauma. Isler does a phenomenal job of portraying the confusing emotions all of these kids have in the face of their trauma and loss. This is particularly evident in Lucy’s character, as this story is told in her perspective. Lucy is very observant and she watches her parents struggling to come to terms with Theo’s death, and how they have failed to help her come to terms with it as well. Her mother is constantly changing furniture and other things in their new home to make a fresh start, and her father has become extremely reserved in his actions and words. They are both trying to ignore their loss instead of working through it together, and we see how terribly this affects Lucy. My heart broke over and over again while I read the scenes with her parents and how Lucy no longer feels she fits in with their equation, trying to piece together the rounded shapes from before Theo’s death and the hard-edged shapes she sees now. She uses math as a coping mechanism because every problem has a definitive answer she can solve for, and she sees her relationship with her parents as shapes that can’t overlap or equations that do not equal each other. It broke my heart that this twelve-year-old girl is using math as a coping mechanism because her parents are so warped by their grief that they can’t see how much Lucy is suffering herself. Isler has a lot of powerful messages in this story, but this is by far the most important in my opinion: loss effects everyone, even children. As parents/adults, it is important to realize this and make sure they are able to work through their grief with someone and be able to talk about it. Pretending that it never happened can cause more pain and confusion, especially when they don’t fully understand the “why” of everything.

As if struggling with her parents isn’t enough, Lucy’s family moves to a place where a massive school shooting happened four years ago and around 25 kids were killed. Everyone Lucy meets at school was close to someone that died. Lucy feels that she can’t talk about her own loss with anyone because it’s not the same. These kids all suffered through a traumatic event together and Lucy is the outsider who can never understand their loss because hers isn’t the same as theirs. “X does not equal Y,” as Lucy says. Unable to share her own grief or completely understand her classmates’ grief, Lucy feels all the more alone. And my heart continues to break.

Isler does a fantastic job at expressing the trauma of the kids that survived the shooting as well. At first, I found it unrealistic that these kids would introduce themselves to Lucy and explain where they were or who they lost during the shooting. But then I got to thinking, they were only 7 or 8 years old when it happened. They’ve spent the last four years going to therapy to talk about what happened to them - talking about it is normal to them because they’re just kids and they’re used to it. While I still don’t think they’d talk about it as much as Isler has them do, it makes sense that they would to some extent. 

Isler also writes about how these kids have ostracized the sister of the shooter. While it is heartbreaking to see this sister ostracized by association, it also makes sense for kids to do this. They went through something traumatic and they don’t understand why it happened - no one does - but they know this girl is related to the shooter. The shooting was traumatizing so things and people related closely to it are meant to be avoided in their eyes. Obviously this isn’t fair to the sister because she barely knew her brother, but again, I can understand why these kids do this. It’s even likely their parents don’t want their kids associating with her either. There are other subtle details that Isler adds to the story and characters to represent their ongoing struggle to cope, and I think Isler does a great job with all of it. 

Aftermath is Isler’s debut novel. Let me tell you, her writing is remarkable. Some debut novels I’ve read, there’s usually something about the writing or flow of the story that doesn’t seem to fit well, but Isler has it together. She is capable of weaving a sensitive plot topic with good character development, all while having an easy to read - yet beautiful - writing style. All of the characters are written very well, the sensitive topics are approached with respect and thoughtfulness, and the writing is middle grade level yet has some really profound moments. I am really not a math person, but most of these profound moments happen by Lucy making a simile or metaphor of something in her life in math terms. Like hugging a triangle and the “X does not equal Y” from earlier. I just loved Isler’s writing so much and I want her to enlighten me on more topics.

I think Aftermath is important and I hope it gets the praise it deserves. I was in high school when the shooting happened at Sandy Hook Elementary. That’s all that was talked about by everyone for weeks. I remember how upset I felt and the tears I saw in my classmates’ eyes as we watched the news and coverage of it in class. I also attended a university that had a shooting in 2007, and even though I was attending ten years afterward, it still lingered on campus and with the professors who had been there at the time. Isler’s story puts these tragedies into a new perspective and reminds us that even though years may pass, something like that never fades away. Seeing it through the eyes of children makes it even more haunting and heartbreaking.

This will be posted to my website closer to the release.
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This book is awesome. Lucy is a girl who family relocates after her little brother's death. What Lucy is not expecting is to end up in a school in a class with students who experienced a school shooting a few years ago, apparently they might have something loosely in common. But Lucy decides to keep her brother's death a secret until she befriends Avery who turns out to be the sister of the shooter. Can Lucy adapt to the school and this new challenging environment where everyone still seems to be healing? Might Lucy be just this school needs? 

This book does a great job of mixing emotion and a bit of humor. I loved it. Also, one last note, the teacher in the book is absolutely fantastic-love him. More teachers need to be like him!
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