Cover Image: AfterMath


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Member Reviews

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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Welcome Back! 

Pretty recently I decided to change how I was reading just a little bit. So typically, I juggle a physical book, a graphic novel or manga, audio book, and maybe a kindle book. However, I decided to change that up a bit! I upgraded my phone a few months ago and honestly, I love reading on it! It allows me to read wherever without bringing my kindle (do not get me wrong I still love my kindle and read on it a lot) but if for example, I am waiting for an appointment I would have my phone with me but maybe not my kindle. So one day I was waiting for something (I honestly forget) and I decided to try a book on my phone! I honestly loved it and ended up reading most of the book on my phone, so while it already sounded like a lot of books to juggle, I decided to add a phone book or phone read to the list. I do not even have to be out of the house to read this one, perhaps I am not feeling well but I have my phone with me on the couch, I might read on my phone for a bit. I really enjoy it and that brings me to my first phone read, Aftermath! 


Lucy is not ready for literally everything in her life to change but her parents are and so Lucy really has no choice. Lucy's little brother recently passed away of a congenital heart defect and now Lucy is not really sure how things are supposed to be. They have been a family of four, living in the same house and same town for almost her whole life. But now, they are moving and not to just anywhere. They are moving to a town, where there was school shooting. Lucy, will attend the school where the shooting happened and be in the same grade as the kids who were there that day and many of them lost classmates or people they cared about. Lucy knows this type of loss is not the same as her brother but she is really unsure what to expect. When the first day of school comes, Lucy learns quickly that she is the first new kid at the school since the shooting (it's been a few years) and everyone is very open about their experiences that day. Lucy is finding it really hard to make any friends, or adjust, and she is not telling anyone about her brother. On top of that her favorite subject and class (math) is suddenly not as concrete as it has always been when the teacher starts talking about the concept of infinity which Lucy does not get at all. Outside of school, things are anything but normal at home, she does not have her friends from back home and things with her parents are weird. They do not really talk about her brother and her mom is buying tons of stuff for the new house. Also Lucy quickly finds out her room belonged to one of the girl's who died in the shooting. On top of all of that someone is leaving math jokes in Lucy's room. Can things look up for Lucy in this new town? Can she open up to her parent's about her struggles with her brother's death? With her new school? With her favorite subject? 

When I started this book on my phone while waiting for my appt, I was honestly unsure what it was about and if I would really enjoy it. However, when my appt time came and went I found myself just wanting to read more of the story and find out what happens to Lucy. Lucy and honestly all of her classmates and the town's story were heartbreaking but I enjoyed my time with this story. This book covers a lot of deep and hard hitting topics but it is done very gracefully and written incredibly well.
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I love how the writing gets to do exactly what it meant to deliver.

The story is about grief, terminal illness, gun violence, PTSD, OCD and coming of age.

The story needs a certain state of mind to read. This is one of those books we do need to read not to enjoy but to understand how the families and friends of such victims try to cope.

The characters are quite convincing and realistic. I am so glad to read such a story from the perspective of a much younger character. 

The character development is outstanding I would say. I do feel middle grade books like this one need to be read by adults so as to try to understand the youngsters much better, specially when it comes to serious inevitable topics like losing a family member, dealing with grief and having someone with terminal illness and how to deal with the rest of the world when and after such unfortunate events happen.

I feel the plot was handled quite well and with sensitivity. I appreciate this so much. I was worried if I would get dissatisfied as the story went on. But I didn't need to. 

I could get to see as exactly as how it happens in real life: the parents and the adults deciding everything by themselves without including the children in question.

The progress in the character development and the turn of events in the later half made the story to be such a better one than what I was expecting. It ended well. The characters and the events that occurred in the story gave me so much.

Thank you, author and the publisher, for the advance reading copy.
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AfterMath is a glimpse into the post-school shooting world that so many schools have had to inhabit in our modern times. The main character, Lucy, is no stranger to loss, after the tragic death of her own brother to cancer. The thing that makes this book stand out is not just the way the characters handle such varied types of grief, but the way that the sister of the school shooter deals with her connection; she las lost her brother, but he is also to blame for the deaths of so many who have family surrounding her at school every day. The relationship between Lucy and the other characters, in their various roles make this a compelling read. 
As a staff member of a school that has dealt with gun violence, I found this to be a cathartic and well-written read. It was fair-minded and recognized what happens after the cameras and the media leave, and how the people left behind face the world, each other and themselves.
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The whole time reading through this book, I couldn't help but think about the kids of Columbine, Parkland, and of countless other school shootings the U.S. has suffered through. I liked this book because it's raw and doesn't hold back on what the aftermath of a school shooting looks like. I also liked this book for its depiction of what a grieving family looks like and the necessity of mental health.
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In Aftermath, Lucy has recently lost her younger brother to a congenital heart disease. At the beginning of the book. Lucy and her parents  moved to a new town, and the city is recovering from a school shooting. Everyone is going through different stages of grief. Lucy's friendship with Avery, her relationship with her parents, and the counsel from her teacher is sweet. While this is a sad book, it shows grief from the point of view of middle school students, and the sincerity feels realistic. I would recommend this book for middle school classrooms, but it could potentially be triggering for students going through something similar.
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Whew! What a ride. This book will have you giggling at some funny math jokes and then crying as you sit in the grief of all the characters. Lucy's brother Theo recently died from a congenital heart condition and her parents have moved her to a town that is still recovering from a school shooting 4 years prior. Lucy's new bedroom belonged to a girl killed in the shooting and every member of her class has a story to tell her about their experience on that dreadful day. How does Lucy even start to fit in? How can she move on when she is harboring her own secret grief? This story explores grief, the awkwardness of middle school, and finding your voice in such a gentle and caring way. I was a little wary going in how these big topics of grief would be handled, but I thought it was so well done.

Content Warning: Grief, Mass/School Shooting, Bullying
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This was a sweet book, and I found myself really liking and rooting for the characters. The contrast between Lucy's experiences and her classmates' was really interesting and a very unique concept, and was explored sensitively and generally with good nuance.
In some ways, though, this was a pretty basic middle grade book, with SO many of the basic tropes (struggles with parents, struggles with friends, the one teacher who gets it, the big project in that teacher's class that brings everyone together...), and at times I found myself wishing that certain issues were explored a little more deeply. I did agree with Lucy that it was selfish of her parents to move in such a way that they got to keep the core aspects of their lives intact, while putting Lucy into what was obviously going to be a difficult situation, and I wish I could have seen more of their perspective on that, or at least a more dramatic response when they eventually did realize how seriously they had overlooked their daughter's wellbeing. That said, it *is* middle grade, and much of that would go over many target readers' heads anyway.
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AfterMath is a remarkable middle grade novel about different kinds of grief and how to deal with it. I really liked seeing the contrast and similarities between the grief that Lucy & her family are dealing with and the grief Lucy's classmates are dealing with. The book has fun characters & situations, but it also knows when it needs to be slow and serious. The balance between the happiness/fun moments and sad/serious moments are really well done. I think that this is a great book for any age, especially though for a child or preteen who is dealing with death & grief and wants to read a story about characters in similar situations.
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AfterMath by Emily Barth Isler explores many topics. First are the long ranging effects of school shootings on children. There are other complex issues involved as well. Grief and dealing with the death of a sibling, the guilt of being the surviving one of trying to hold it together for one's parents, of entering a new school, of entering a school that does not want to accept you, and lastly of entering a school that has survived the aftermath of a school shooting. 

I like that Lucy becomes involved with mime. I found this interesting and new to explore. I like that she is a math whiz. I like that she is a good girl trying her bet to navigate a strange world as best that she can. This is a book I wish I had when I was thirteen.
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After her five-year-old brother Theo's death from a genetic heart defect, math-loving Lucy Rothman and her parents are looking for a new start. But the town they move into is definitely not an escape from tragedy-- in fact, it's the opposite. Four years ago, 27 people were killed in a shooting at the elementary school, and now Lucy has to go to a new school where every other student was present for that trauma. Even Lucy's new bedroom used to belong to a third-grade girl lost to the shooting. Everyone in Queensland, Virginia knew someone who died that day, but Lucy doesn't want to bring up her own loss to any of them.
Enter Mr. Jackson, Lucy's math teacher, who starts an after-school mime class, and Avery, a classmate who is largely ostracized because her half-brother had been the shooter. Mime encourages Lucy, Avery and the rest of the group to express their feelings without using words, but Lucy still wishes her parents would use their words around her and try to acknowledge Theo more.

Avery was definitely my favorite character. She reminded me a lot of the protagonist from the similarly titled "Aftermath" by Kelley Armstrong, but really into fashion and makeup and changing her signature look every so often. She wasn't close to her brother, but still gets treated like a reminder of the shooting, and I really liked seeing Lucy make friends with her and assure her that she didn't deserve any of it. 

If you liked "The Shape of Thunder," please read this book.
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I read a lot of middle grade and this just wasn't up to par in my opinion. It tries to tackle a very serious topic (school shootings) which I appreciate, but the writing is just mediocre. Some of the events and dialogue were just too convenient and even contrived at times. Unfortunately this one just didn't work for me.
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Twelve year old Lucy and her parents are mourning the death of her little brother who died from a heart defect. Her parents thought moving to a town healing from a recent school shooting would help them better fit in because their neighbors would understand their loss. This is exceptionally hard on Lucy who struggles to fit in and keeps her brother Theo’s death a secret. Her mom throws herself into therapy sessions and heart defect organizations to occupy her time, but her father is withdrawn and barely engages with the family. 
     Lucy’s kind and dynamic teacher draws her into an after school miming club he advises which allows him to strengthen his relationship with her, helps her express her grief in a safe outlet, and creates some friendships although she is hesitant to call them that. 
     Avery, the stepsister of the shooter responsible for the deaths and injuries affecting many of their classmates, is shunned by her peers. Lucy is warned to avoid her, but people hesitate to tell her why. Lucy befriends Avery and the relationship is life-altering for both of them. 
     I loved seeing the trust build, witnessing baby steps of the characters in healing from their losses, and the way Lucy’s love of math was interwoven throughout the book, especially the concept of infinity. I was very touched by this book and its message of forgiveness and trust.
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Lucy loves math, it just makes sense to her when everything else around her is out of sync. Lucy moves to a new town after her brother Theo passes away, but the town is dealing with there own grief from previous events. This is a great story about loss and grief and learning to move on. 

Thank you NetGalley for this ARC!
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This certainly doesn’t beat around the bush, does it?

Lucy and her parents have moved to a new town after the loss of her younger brother who had a fatal heart condition, but their new town is cloaked in a grief of its own. Four years prior, the elementary school experienced a school shooting that claimed the lives of teachers and third graders. Lucy enters 7th grade, filled with the survivors of that third grade class.

I kept reminding myself as I read that grief affects people differently. This comes from the frustration I had with Lucy’s parents, in that they, for whatever reason, move their daughter specifically to a town that suffered a horrific tragedy. Lucy is told that they are the first new family in town/she is the first new student in their class since the shooting. Her classmates talk and emote openly about their struggles and go into detail about what they witnessed without being prompted or asked. Lucy now has to juggle dealing with her classmates’ experiences as well as the recent death of her brother. On top of that, her mom and dad almost downright refuse to talk about their son and how it’s affecting their daughter. It’s…a lot.

There is a very cute and welcome side-plot with Lucy joining a mime club spearheaded by the math teacher, who was my favorite character. I wish the author would have gone into more of what their performance night was like.

I did like Aftermath and I think it’s important. I don’t see myself recommending this to each and every kid who comes into the library—it’s too heavy for casual reading. But I’m sure many young people (and adults!) will pick this up and get something out of it.
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