Cover Image: AfterMath


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Schools have changed. School shootings are no longer rare occurrences but too common. AfterMath places death in the forefront and how it can occur in many different variances. Death from school shootings to illness, Isler brings dealing with death to the forefront. AfterMath is a realistic look at how children and parents deal or don't deal with death. Lucy is a great protagonist to lead readers through this heavy topic. Her lack of social understanding for emotional cues when it comes to death will allow a broad range of children to understand the nuances of grieving on many levels. We often have the strongest bond when death occurs but often that is where the story stops, not thinking to extend the conversation to a year or 10 down the road. AfterMath is that book that will help to start a conversation about death by intersecting it with Math and change.
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I really enjoyed this book, but it also makes me sad that this topic is something that middle grade students have to deal with.
Lucy and her parents move to a new town after the death of her little brother.  When Lucy arrives in her new town she finds out that the students at her school are recovering from the tragedy of a school shooting.  Most of this book deals with grief and how people process grief differently and how people get so caught up in their own grief that they forget to talk to their loved ones about their feelings..
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When teaching, I always search for books that can fit a child’s needs. This one opens up plenty of discussions from grief, illness, mental health to tragic deaths and gun violence. While geared towards a middle grade audience, I believe this story would best fit in the upper half of the middle, even moving into lower high school as well. This is a book for Middle School and up, adults included, as it brings awareness to mental health and grief, which is often overlooked at this age.

This story describes the impact of tragedy on the lives of young children. Lucy, our main character, is suffering from the loss of her brother as she struggles with fitting in at a new school that has its own grief that is being processed. Lucy turns to math, a concrete subject as her source of comfort as she processes her grief. Through the book, she learns the various ways how grief can be dealt with. She sees it through her classmates, the faculty at her school, and even at home.
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Be prepared with this book: you'll need a cozy blanket to hide away from the heartwrenching moments and a big box of tissues on hand. An achingly real, raw, and tender of the struggles with grief, trauma, and healing.
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Take the setting of a community with a school shooting, add a twelve-year-old protagonist whose brother has just died of a congenital heart defect, and start each chapter with a math fact. Emily Barth Isler puts Lucy, who sorts her issues mathematically, in just such a setting in her book, with appropriate name of Aftermath. In addition, Lucy’s parents decide the best way to deal with their own grief is to move away from it, putting her as the new kid in the middle of the school with the shooting history to make her adjustment. The book maintains a surprisingly upbeat tone as Lucy makes her way through the changes life has thrown at her.

Lucy enters school, not only as a new student, but as the only one without the shared history of classmates whose identities are based on how they survived the shooting and the relationships they had with the ones who did not. One way she copes is sitting at the table with Avery who is shunned by the other students for some reason. She keeps her own grief to herself since it seems different from her new classmates’ pain. Slowly, a mime class, evolving friendships, and increased awareness from her parents of their own need to share their pain bring perspective to Lucy.  Learning Avery’s secret brings empathy to Lucy and to the reader.

Beginning each chapter with a math puzzle frequently lightens the tone, previews the section that follows, or both. For instance, Chapter 5 begins with “Question: If our school is shaped like an octagon, and it as 8 sides, how many different ways can I get lost in the halls? Answer: So far, hundreds, and counting.” 

This is an excellent book for middle graders who need to understand and deal with their own sorrow or who need to know how to empathize with others who are hurting.
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AfterMath is not a book I would normally have picked up, but I am glad that I did. This book deals with many different types of trauma and different ways to cope. The story is engaging and you really want to see how it ends. I really love how different adults in the book deal with trauma in different ways and it shows how adults are not perfect and need help. It also paints therapy and seeking support in a positive light. Like I said at the beginning, I would not normally seek out a book about a main character that moves to a town that had a school shooting, after her brother dies, and uses math to help her cope, but I think this book could prove very useful for tweens so I'm glad I did.
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I read AfterMath after a deep and vast fantasy novel, hoping for a light palate-cleanser. Instead, I was immersed into the story of twelve-year-old neurodivergent Lucy, who uses numbers and equations to make sense of her world. 

After the death of Lucy’s younger brother, Theo, from a heart defect, her parents decide to move to a new town for a “fresh start”. Unfortunately this means a new school for Lucy, who is already struggling with how to process and express her grief. The new school and students have, however, grief of their own: they are the survivors of a school shooting some four years earlier. Indeed, Lucy’s bedroom is the former bedroom of one of the victims, something that haunts Lucy’s thoughts and contemplations around her own feelings. For Lucy, grief is silent, private, something to attempt to understand via mathematical principles; for the students around her, grief is something to be shared, memories to be expressed, and fears to be discussed. This alienates Lucy to some degree, and so she sits with a fellow loner at lunchtime: Avery, who everyone avoids… 

A friendly and astute mathematics teacher, Mr Jackson, invites Lucy into the after-school mime group, where tentative friendships are made with actions and expressions which encourage more verbal interactions outside of the group. I really liked this aspect of the story and my only criticism was that we didn’t experience much of what the group worked towards at the end of the book. 

Trauma and bereavement are running themes of this immensely readable and poignant novel. It reminds the reader that everyone grieves differently, and the dead are not gone — for who is remembered, lives. It also tackles communication, trust, and family dynamics — Lucy’s parents both struggle with the loss of their son, in very different ways. It is Lucy who brings them together, through the use of activities she has learned via the mime group and also her friendship with Avery. 

I read this book in one sitting and, despite its challenging and heartbreaking subject matter, I really enjoyed it. I may have had a good, hard cry afterwards, but that’s okay. Ultimately the story is not one of loss and suffering, but one that re-affirms the power of forgiveness, hope, and community to nurture and heal. 

I received an e-ARC from the publisher, Lerner Publishing Group/Carolrhoda Books, through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Thank you to @netgalley @lernerbooks  #CarolrhodaBooks for the digital ARC in return for my honest review. 
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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