August 8, 2013

Latest Read: The After Girls by Leah Konen

Here are the basics ...
The After Girls by Leah Konen
Publication date: April 18, 2013
Publisher: Merit Press
Category: Young Adult - Contemporary
Source: Received book at BEA (Thanks!)

Summary: Ella, Astrid, and Sydney were planning the perfect summer after high school graduation. But when Astrid commits suicide in a lonely cabin, the other girls' worlds are shattered. How could their best friend have done this--to herself and to them? They knew everything about Astrid. Shouldn't they have seen this coming? Couldn't they have saved her? As Ella hunts for the truth, and Sydney tries to dull the pain, a chilling message from Astrid leaves them wondering whether their beloved friend is communicating from the after life. The girls embark on a journey to uncover Astrid's dark secrets. The answers to those questions--questions they never dreamed of asking--will change their lives forever. (Adapted goodreads.com)
My thoughts…
The good: The After Girls evoked so many emotions and thoughts in me as I read.  My best friends mean the world to me and trying to put myself in these girls' shoes for even a second was a like punch in the gut. The author's descriptions of how each girl - Ella and Sydney - deal with the aftermath of Astrid's suicide is nothing short of heartbreaking and it was impossible to read this without feeling affected by their grief.

The story begins right after Astrid has been found and Ella and Sydney are going in opposite directions with how they deal. Ella is all about the answers. She wants to know why Astrid did this, what was she hiding, what didn't they know about her family life and did they ever truly know Astrid to begin with? Ella knows she can't move on until she finds out. Sydney, on the other hand, is driven by something else entirely - guilt. We learn there were moments when Astrid would be on the brink of confiding in her, but something would always interrupt. And Sydney never pushed. Now she's asking herself why she didn't press her for answers and if she had, could she have saved Astrid?

Even though their shared grief should be bringing them together, it's driving them apart because they can't comprehend why the other is acting the way they are. Ella is still working at the Astrid's mom's cafe (with family she never knew Astrid had) and going to her house for dinners. Whereas Sydney chooses to focus on her band (there's a performance in the beginning that moved me so unexpectedly) and partying. It was frustrating to see two best friends at odds when they needed each other the most but it also made sense in a way. Grief affects everyone differently and despite that, they tried to be there for each other. They tried to understand.

(Super minor) reservations: The summary mentions that the girls receive "a chilling message from Astrid" but I must've completely missed that because when it actually happened in the book I thought - uh oh, please do not go all Pretty Little Liars on me (nothing against the show!). All I can say is, if you feel the same way, just keep reading. I wasn't expecting the mystery factor but if you think about it, Astrid's death is a mystery to them and I could understand their desire to find the truth. It all comes together in the end.

Do I recommend?: I do! There are these little quotes splattered throughout the book where I found myself stopping and just thinking about the author's words. She has a lot of honest and raw things to say about friendship which I enjoyed a lot.

Happy reading!

2 comments:

  1. First of all, I just have to mention again how much I adore your blog's new layout. It always makes me smile and I love how bright, creative and colourful it is!

    This book sounds extremely powerful, and I appreciate that it focuses on female friendship rather than romance. So few novels, particularly in the young adult genre, choose to do so! As you mentioned, it's unimaginably difficult to place yourself in the Ella and Sydney's shoes. I would likely react similarly to Ella. Answers would allow for some semblance of closure, and I can't imagine being left with all those questions about someone you thought you knew so well.

    This was a lovely and insightful review, as always, Rachel :)

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  2. I can't wait to read this book! It's in the box I sent to the Philippines (which I hope arrives VERY soon). I love that it's about friendship, which I can never get enough of in books.

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