In the aftermath of her little brother’s death, Lucy and her parents move to a small town that is still healing from a school shooting four years ago. It’s jarring for Lucy to be around all these kids who lost friends when they were in the third grade, but it’s even harder because, unlike the situation in her home, the kids talk a lot about the shooting, their grief, and seeing therapists. But in all their sharing, the students have cast the shooter’s younger sister and their classmate, Avery — whom Lucy befriends — as an outsider. Will Lucy ever find her place and deal with her grief?
Despite my hesitation about the author narrating, I listened to this on audio and loved it! Lucy is a deeply introspective character with a serious love for math. It’s how she makes sense of the world around her.
Moving to a new place is disorienting but especially after a huge loss. Lucy’s hoping to redefine herself, only to be re-immersed in community-wide grief this time. Naturally, it’s not easy. I love how the author slowly peels back the layers of the town, so we learn about everything as Lucy is finding out too.
Lucy eventually gets into a mime class at school which is fun to read about since I didn’t know anything about mime before. I love how mime brings her class together and allows Lucy explore her emotions. I also loved watching her friendship with Avery blossom and seeing her parents (especially her dad) start to process their grief about losing their son. This story shows a family that is struggling, but deciding to keep trudging and figuring it out as healthily as possible, and I liked that.
Aftermath is a powerful, heartbreaking, and hopeful middle grade book about the impact of school shootings, grief, and friendships. Lucy’s love for math and the math jokes throughout this book will appeal to kids who like STEM middle grade books. At the same time, the mime class will appeal to kids who love the arts, making this a potential crowd pleaser. Although grief is never a fun topic to discuss, the author does a great job of making this realistic without being utterly depressing. I would definitely recommend this one!