Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Aftermath by Kelley Armstrong

Skye Gilchrist and Jesse Mandal were best friends in freshman year of high school and on their way to becoming a couple. Then, a tragedy interrupts their lives in the form of a school shooting. Skye's brother Luka was caught with a gun and shot before he killed anyone. Jesse's brother Jamil was shot and killed. In the three years afterward, Skye moved from place to place, trying to unsuccessfully escape the blame and torment until she returned to her home and the school where the shooting happened. Once she's there, Jesse treats her terribly and someone is playing pranks on her that become more dangerous as they go on. Will their friendship ever be the same and who is tormenting Skye?

Aftermath is an obviously titled book about the aftermath of a school shooting. Skye and Jesse's lives are both very effected by this event. Skye is much more introverted and scared to interact with people. She hasn't been able to call anywhere home for very long because of the harassment. People assume she knew something or did something terrible because her brother was one of the shooters. Skye only has happy memories of Luka, his wonderful art, and his caring nature. Jesse, on the other hand, became a track star to fill his brother's shoes and give his parents some joy in their lives. His academics suffered even though he was great at them before and he takes steroids to stay good at the sport. His school attendance is extremely spotty, but overlooked because he's a successful athlete. He has nothing but awful memories of Jamil, his abuse, and his cruel nature.

Skye and Jesse reconnect after some rough interactions and misunderstandings and work together to find out who the harasser is. Their relationship is sweet. They acknowledge the changes in each other and move on from there. I felt the harassment plotline took away from the greater story. Dealing with the aftermath of this horrific event is enough and adding a mystery plot seems a little cheap. I also felt some characters could have been dealt with better. Jamil seems like a jerk, but his brother would still mourn him. Jesse seems very callous towards his brother and doesn't seem to care a lot for him. I felt it would be more realistic if Jesse was torn and mourned him, but was still affected by those bad memories and Jamil's awful behavior. The principal is an idiot and would never work in a school. He would be sued so fast it's ridiculous because he keeps denying the harassment and escalating incidences and blaming Skye for them. If he were more calculating or nuanced, he could have been a  more effective character.

Aftermath could have been a hard hitting book about school shootings, but it gets too caught up in unnecessary mystery and one dimensional characters. The relationship featured is sweet and built organically over time. Other than that, the only really good, nuanced thing is Skye's feelings toward her brother and trying to reconcile him with what he did. If you're going to write a book about a school shooting, which is very topical as it keeps happenning over and over, it should be about the shooting itself and the real aftermath, not some manufactured whodunit.

My rating: 2.5/5 fishmuffins

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