If I told you that a book about cancer patients was funny, you might call me disturbed, crass, or several versions of inappropriate. But After Ever After is funny despite the very serious subject.
This is a sorta sequel to Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie. Jeffrey, the younger brother from the first book, is now the main character. He is in remission and has been labeled a cancer survivor. Even though he’s a survivor, cancer could still come back and that’s a fear Jeffrey and his family deal with each day. He makes friends in elementary school with a boy named Tad who also survived cancer. This is part of what sets After Ever After apart from other books that deal with cancer.
The two major players in the book deal with cancer through humor but have very different attitudes towards others. Tad is extremely defensive to the point of being downright mean to everyone in the school. Jeffrey is constantly coaching him on how to be nicer while Tad pushes Jeffrey to never give up.
Cancer is the big force of the book, yet standardized testing is the looming conflict. Jeffrey is doing better in Math, but his efforts could be meaningless if he doesn’t pass the state test and is held back. Methotrexate treatments have made it tough for Jeffrey to stay focused for extended periods of time. The fact that his girlfriend could go on to high school, and high school boys, without him adds to the distraction.
None of this sounds funny, right? What balances the book is a sarcastic narrator. Sonnenblick took a risk making his main character so flippant about life-threatening decisions. It reads as if Jeffrey has truly endured and learned what to take serious and what is out of his control.
Like how Okay for Now made me want to go back and read Wednesday Wars, After Ever After makes me want to read Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie. This is a must-have addition to any library.
Here’s another reminder of HopeKids, an organization that helps families with life-threatening illnesses. Good friends of mine run one of the branches. It’s definitely worth checking out.