****SPOILER ALERT**** This book, while it can be read independent of its predecessor, is a follow up to Sonnenblick’s Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie. If you plan on reading Drums, check out my review here. Then read After Ever After, and come back to visit this . Or just read as I gush about Jordan Sonnenblick, a YA/MG author to whom I’ve just been introduced, and now I want to read everything he writes.
Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie is told from Steven’s point of view, an teen who spends his eighth grade year not only navigating his own adolescence but also dealing with his five-year-old brother Jeffrey’s leukemia diagnosis and treatment. Drums ends with Steven graduating and Jeffrey having finished treatment, but we are left hanging as far as any long-term effects of Jeffrey’s cancer. Enter After Ever After. Jeffrey is now in eighth grade, and Steven has left college, his family, and his girlfriend to join a drumming circle in Africa. Jeffrey has reached his five-year mark, which means he’s officially in remission, but he’s lost his main support system in Steven, who is completely off the grid, and the effects of his cancer treatment will be with him always. After Ever After is Jeffrey’s story.
When he was five, Jeffrey Alpler was the town cause. Steven’s eight grade band concert was a fundraiser that brought thousands of dollars to the Alper family. Now in eighth grade, Jeffrey is self-conscious about his limp, his weak fine motor skills, and his inability to maintain mental focus, all side effects of the nerve damage due to methotrexate, his chemotherapy drug. Every time he gets to know someone, he has to have “the talk,” and from then on he is “the kid who had cancer.”
Jeff’s best friend, Tad, is a cancer survivor as well, not yet in his fifth year. Where Jeff tries to keep a low profile, Tad is the outspoken one. The two make a great pair, often to the point of hilarity. And then there’s Lindsey, the new girl from California who, according to Jeff, is way out of his league, but is it possible, maybe, that she’s flirting with him?
Through the unique voices of Jeffrey, Tad, Lindsey, and the Alper family, Sonnenblick illustrates the realities of childhood cancer, that surviving the disease is only the first step. I laughed a lot while reading this book (actually while listening to it on Audible…Nick Podehl’s take on the gym teacher is priceless). I cried too. I would do it again because that’s how much I loved this beautiful book.