Not After Everything by Michelle Levy
Publisher: Dial Books
Publication Date: August 4, 2015
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher
Summary (from Goodreads):
Fans of Eleanor and Park, The Spectacular Now, Willow, and Perfectly Good White Boy won't be able to put down this gritty but hopeful love story about two struggling teens.
Tyler has a football scholarship to Stanford, a hot girlfriend, and a reliable army of friends to party with. Then his mom kills herself. And Tyler lets it all go. Now he needs to dodge what his dad is offering (verbal tirades and abuse) and earn what his dad isn’t (money): He needs a job. It’s there that he reunites with Jordyn, his childhood best friend, and now the token goth girl at school. Jordyn brings Tyler an unexpected peace and, finally, love. But with his family in shambles, he can’t risk bringing Jordyn too deeply into his life. So when violence rocks Tyler’s world again, will it be Jordyn who shows him the way to a hopeful future? Or after everything, will Tyler have to find it in himself?
This tough, realistic page-turner reveals a boy's point of view on loss and love—perfect for fans of Rainbow Rowell, Tim Tharp, Julia Hoban, Carrie Mesrobian, and Mindi Scott.
What I Liked:
Did anyone else choke up while reading this book? Tell me why I was sitting at work, holding this book and trying to swallow the golf-ball-sized lump in my throat. Good thing most of my coworkers were on lunch break. I never cry or tear up over books! But this one got to me. Tough-issue contemporary isn't my thing it all (quite possibly my least favorite genre), but this book is worth the read and then some.
Tyler's mother killed herself during the summer before his senior year, and weeks later, the pain of finding her dead in the bathtub, of losing her, hasn't eased. Tyler's father is abusive, and refuses to pay for anything for Tyler. Tyler quits football (in which he had locked down a football scholarship to Stanford) in order to start paying for basic needs, like toilet paper. His girlfriend Sheila is trying to get him to open up, but he finds that he can't, not with her, his best friend Marcus, his therapist, his school counselor. When he takes a job with a nutty photographer, a girl he used to be friends with is there - and Jordyn can't stand him. But she is the only one that doesn't let him get away with being a douchebag to everyone, and it's not long before Tyler realizes that he needs to open up with someone, before it's too late.
This book was incredible. So moving, so touching, so larger than life. It's more than just a story, a relationship between two teens reconnected, a teen losing his popularity and "claim" on the high school social ladder. This is one of those tough-issue contemporary novels that sticks with you and grips your heart and makes you grateful for what you have, for your own story.
The books is written in first person, entirely from Tyler's POV. In the beginning, we see Tyler as a douchebag type, feelings locked squarely away, on autopilot. He pushed away everyone, broke up with his girlfriend Sheila, hooked up with a random girl soon after, quit one job, picked up one, picked up another, skipped classes. Tyler didn't give many displays of emotion. You can't help but feel sorry for Tyler, as well as want to hug him and punch him at the same time. He was a running back on the football team before he quit, and he had been on track to go to Stanford with a football scholarship. Talk about all-American golden boy. All that changed when his mother killed herself.
Tyler's character development is subtle and extraordinary, and I loved seeing him go through so many phases of grief, so many phases of accepting grief and letting go of guilt. Tyler grows into a lass a**holish guy, and more of a sweeter guy who sees and understands. No longer the popular running back, head of the pack, hot, sought-after guy. I like the vulnerable side of him better, though his macho football side appealed to me greatly.
Jordyn and Tyler used to be friends when they were small, but then Jordyn and her mother moved away. Years later, Jordyn has been attending the same high school as Tyler, though Tyler doesn't recognize her. She wears a ton of Goth makeup, obscuring her natural features and hiding her own personal problems from the world. Jordyn is so hateful and angry with Tyler in general, when he first starts working for her stepdad Henry. But she slowly starts to see the situation that Tyler is in. Jordyn is a smart, clever girl, who doesn't put up with Tyler's emotionless routine. As soon as she finds out about Tyler's life at home with his father, she tries to help him. Jordyn has every reason to hate Tyler, but the two of them grow close slowly.
I love watching their relationship progress. They both seriously did not like each other at first (well, Jordyn hated Tyler; Tyler didn't care about her). Tyler gets around, with his girlfriend, and then another girl, Ali, when he and Sheila break up. But there is something so different about his relationship with Jordyn, and he doesn't want to mess it up. He is careful around her, preserving the friendship that they have. But the two of them fall for each other, and it is quite beautiful. I generally enjoy hate-to-love relationships, and this was a sweet example of such.
The "tough-issue" part of this book is heartbreaking. The first scene I read with Tyler and his father in the same room infuriated me. About halfway through the book, another scene with Tyler and his father had me choked up. I cannot imagine for a second what Tyler was going through, yet I could understand exactly why he chose to do what he chose to do. It was so heartbreaking though, I couldn't help but feel heartsick for Tyler.
The climax of this book is heartbreaking as well, but also very hopeful and uplifting. And then the ending... it was so, so bittersweet. Although, I actually really LOVED the ending, because it makes so much sense. I can't say anything without spoiling everything but believe me, after going through the same transition between high school and college, this ending makes so much sense, and really isn't sad at all.
What I Did Not Like:
Sometimes I felt the high school drama was a little TOO much. Maybe my high school was "good" (I went to a public school), but no student every grabbed at anyone's shirt and pulled it up to reveal a girl's bra, in a hallway in front of students. Or at all, in any situation. No one sprayed paint on a student's clothing. Some scenes just seemed like too much for real life, or even fiction.
Other than that, I was very satisfied with this book!
Would I Recommend It:
For anyone who loves tough-issue contemporary, definitely do not miss this book. I'm not a tough-issue contemporary fan, but certain books are enjoyable for me, like Patty Blount's TMI, Some Boys, Nothing Left To Burn.
4 stars. I honestly didn't think I would like this book! I couldn't put it down - I was at work and it was practically glued to my hand! So, do not start this book if you are working or doing something that will take your attention from the book. You'll want to read this all in one sitting!
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