For the past few years I have enjoyed reading Jordan Sonnenblick’s Drums, Girls, And Dangerous Pie to my classes. I love Sonnenblick’s voice and I think he captures carious middle school personalities perfectly. Plus, he deals with a serious subject (cancer) in a down-to-earth way. His book always makes my students laugh but without fail their final words are, “is there a sequel?!” For the past few years I have always had to break the bad news to them that no, there was no sequel. Well imagine my excitement when I read that After Ever After would be published this month!
WARNING! This review will contain spoilers for Drums, Girls, And Dangerous Pie. If you haven’t read that one yet, get up right now and get yourself to a library or bookstore. It’s a fantastic read and one very middle school teacher should be familiar with.
After Ever After is everything I wanted and more. Where Drums, Girls, And Dangerous Pie told the story of Jeffrey’s cancer through his older brother Steven’s eyes, After Ever After is told from Jeffrey’s point of view. Now in eighth grade, he is no longer the kid with cancer. Instead, he is a teenager in remission. Thanks to the chemo and methotrexate, he walks with a limp and has problems focusing in school. Steven, the one person he can always count on to be there for him, has dropped out of college, dumped Annette, and run off to Africa to join an African drum circle. Meanwhile, Jeffrey is dealing with his first girlfriend (the hottest girl in school!), an increasingly grumpy best friend, and his parents flipping out over a new standardized test that he must pass in order to move on to high school.
I can not wait to booktalk this to my class. Again, it deals with some serious topics like cancer, life, and death, but it does it with deference and laughter. I found myself laughing out loud many times and cringing at others. Jeffrey is a typical middle school boy, even if he is a cancer survivor. He has no idea what to say to the girl he likes, he makes bad “your mom jokes”, and he is convinced his dad hates him. He is self-deprecating but does not pity himself. He has baggage, but he tries to ensure it doesn’t define him.
I also loved After Ever After feels like it can stand alone. One doesn’t need to read Drums, Girls, And Dangerous Pie in order to enjoy After Ever After. While the two books are a great pair, and reading one will make you want to read the other, they both stand well on their own. That’s the sign of a fantastic pair of books.
(And for any teachers out there, Jeffrey’s struggles with standardized testing will rile you up something fierce! Plus, Miss Palma is an awesome English teacher!)
*ARC courtesy of the publisher