After Ever After
Jordan Sonnenblick’s first novel, DRUMS, GIRLS & DANGEROUS PIE, introduced the Alper family. At that point, five-year-old Jeffrey was diagnosed with leukemia, while 13-year-old brother Steven struggled to maintain some sort of normalcy in his life. Readers may well remember the often poignant yet humorous glimpse into the family as they dealt with the unexpected crisis. While that story may have ended with a “happily ever after,” their journey was far from over.
Fast forward eight years: Jeffrey is in full remission from the deadly cancer, and his biggest obstacle is navigating through the eighth grade. Having been the poster child for community charity, Jeffrey is perfectly content to just lay low and coast on through to high school. If being a teenager wasn’t difficult enough, the effects of his leukemia treatment have left him unable to walk without a limp and a brain that sometimes has trouble processing information. Needless to say, school is difficult, particularly math, and Jeffrey does well just to get by.
Steven flew the coop a couple of years ago to college but always made a point to come home and give Jeffrey the guidance only older brothers can give. And Steven has never let him down. So Jeffrey is at a complete and utter loss when Steven decides to leave the country and fly to Africa to “find himself.” Jeffrey still has so many questions that need to be answered:
1) What does he do about the new and beautiful girl from California who is inexplicably interested in him?
2) How does he stick up for his friend, Tad, who is also a cancer survivor but is confined to a wheelchair and has a chip on his shoulder?
3) Is there a good way to sneak out of the house when you’re grounded?
Jeffrey was grounded from now until forever for failing to tell his parents about the new state mandate that all eighth graders must pass a proficiency exam to enter into high school. There is no possible way for Jeffrey to pass the math portion without a miracle. And it seems that miracles are in short supply when you are a cancer survivor. Tad strikes Jeffrey a deal to tutor him in math as long as Jeffrey promises to help Tad gain the strength to walk across the stage to collect his diploma. Graduation is a long way off, though, and a “happily ever after” isn’t looking too good.
I appreciated DRUMS, GIRLS & DANGEROUS PIE for its funny and heartwarming look at a topic that is both serious and often overlooked in literature. Sonnenblick introduced readers to a family that took one day at a time and still tried to enjoy the little things. While Sonnenblick felt that he “had told the whole story of the Alper family,” an email from a social worker that runs a teenage cancer survivor support group told him that the story was far from finished. Thus, AFTER EVER AFTER provides that extra insight into the ongoing battle that is known as life. Sonnenblick once again succeeds with the right mix of sincerity and hilarity.
Reviewed by Benjamin Boche on February 1, 2010
After Ever After
- Publication Date: April 1, 2011
- Genres: Fiction
- Paperback: 272 pages
- Publisher: Scholastic Press
- ISBN-10: 0439837081
- ISBN-13: 9780439837088