by Kelley Armstrong
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Three years after losing her brother Luka in a school shooting, Skye Gilchrist is moving home. But there's no sympathy for Skye and her family because Luka wasn't a victim; he was a shooter.
Jesse Mandal knows all too well that the scars of the past don't heal easily. The shooting cost Jesse his brother and his best friend--Skye.
Ripped apart by tragedy, Jesse and Skye can't resist reopening the mysteries of their past. But old wounds hide darker secrets. And the closer Skye and Jesse get to the truth of what happened that day, the closer they get to a new killer.
I adore Kelley Armstrong but to be honest, I probably wouldn’t have picked up Aftermath. The subject matter is upsetting to me, but I received a copy in the mail and decided to try it. I am really glad that I did. While relevant, it takes a look at the families affected by school shooting and shares the friendship between a shooter’s sister and the brother of a victim. Armstrong added a suspenseful thread and sweet romance to the story making it a worthy read.
I went into Aftermath fully expecting to be upset and in desperate need of truffles. While we catch glimpses of the high school shooting the story took on a suspense thriller aspect that made me more comfortable. Armstrong starts the story with the events that occurred the morning of the shooting then fast forwards three years.
The story is told from dual POVS giving us the voice of Skye Gilchrist whose brother Luka was shot and killed three years previously when he and his high school buddies went on a shooting rampage. Skye’s grandmother whisked her away after the shooting, and her life has been anything but smooth. Her mother isn’t well, her Dad altogether dropped out of the picture, and Gran has been her rock. When Gran suffers a stroke, Skye is forced to return home and live with her single aunt. Aftermath shares the first few months of her return with some flashbacks and glimpses into her life before and what went down.
The second perspective comes from Jesse Mandal, whose brother was one of the victims. He was also best friends with Skye and had started thinking of her as something more. Jesse hasn’t done well the past three years. His grades have slipped and was expelled from his former high school for fighting. The only positive in his life is track, and even that is tainted.
Kelley Armstrong fleshed out these likable, funny, sad, snarky, confused characters allowing the reader to experience all of their emotions, fears, and struggles. Mia, Skye’s Aunt, pushed her to return home and is one of those type people who believe in facing the problem head-on. She did allow Skye to choose which local high school to attend. I couldn’t imagine going back to the same high school. Of course, the rumor mill in high school is stronger than ever, and everyone knows who she is. Skye is tough though, or at least her defenses are strong. Her first day was horrible and made worse when she discovers Jesse also attends this school.
The suspense, thriller, mystery thread was a surprise and one I enjoyed. Incidents occur which freak Skye out and place her in danger. It was done in such a way to unnerve her but have those in power suspect that maybe Skye herself has done this to seek attention. Thankfully she reconnects with Jesse, and the two begin to investigate. The mystery was well developed with plenty of twists.
Secondary characters added to the story. I was so glad that the parental figures were level-headed, realistic and present. They made mistakes as most parents do, but listened and were supportive. Armstrong gave us a mix of students, and while some fell into cliche roles, and became suspects, she also showed some positivity too.
I absolutely loved the dynamics of Skye and Jesse’s friendship and seeing it rekindle. We get a nice slow-burning, deliciously awkward romance that made me smile and remember that first love feeling.
Aftermath ended up delivering a surprising suspense thriller in this coming of age novel with characters you’ll relate to and identify with.
[bctt tweet=”Aftermath by Kelley Armstrong surprised me as it turned out to be a suspense thriller. A coming of age novel set against a tragedy with characters you’ll relate to and identify with. #NewRelease #YA” username=”kimbacaffeinate”]
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
If anyone can tackle this topic, it’s Armstrong. She’s amazing. I’m going to have to check out this books. Great review.
Another stormingly good review, Kimberly – thank you so much! I love Kelley Armstrong’s writing – but I don’t think I’ll be reading this one… I am SUCH worrywart, I am giving myself permission to avoid stories and film where youngsters are snatched/murdered/shot at school/generally hurt! Grannying is lovely – but it does have its down side.
I totally understand, but stress this wasn’t about the actual shooting per se, it was really about those left behind.
This is the third positive review I’ve read for this book recently. Such a horrible subject so I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read this or not. Still not sure to be honest. The suspense part is what sounds really interesting though. I’ve never read her but did love watching her Bitten series when it was on tv. Great review Kimberly!
Keep in mind this happens three years later and deals with two friends. I was surprised and glad that I chose to read it.
I love Kelley Armstrong, but I’ve been hesitant about this one as well! It’s a topic that is so real for a lot of people, and I didn’t know if I wanted to go there myself. One Breath Away by Heather Gudenkauf is a book I read last year with a similar theme (a guy held a school of young children hostage), and that was hard to read before a lot of these school shootings had occurred.
I’m glad you ended up liking this one and that the parents felt authentic. It’s so rare for them to be involved and not be one extreme or the other (if they’re there at all). I guess I’ll read this one when I have a chance. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! <3
L @ Do You Dog-ear?
I think because this takes place three years after, it really helps. She does not go into a lot of details about the actual shooting except to indicate how their siblings were involved.
Carole @ Carole's Random Life in Books
I went back and forth trying to decide if I wanted to read this one. I have really liked Armstrong but I wasn’t sure that I wanted to read about a school shooting. I thought she did such a great job with the characters and the mystery in this one. Great review!
She really did. Thanks Carole
Tyler H. Jolley
I’ve heard so many great things about this, I’m glad you enjoyed it!
It was well done Tyler. She is quite talented and not afraid to approach any topic.
The thriller aspect would be a nice balance to the awful catalyst event. I don’t blame you for hesitating before reading it.
Yes and we deal with another dimension to the story once the national spotlight has faded.
Katherine @ I Wish I Lived in a Library
I had marked this as a no-go based off the premise but I think you’ve convinced me to change my mind. It does sound like it was incredibly well done.
Yeah, if I hadn’t received it in the mail, I would have been the same. It wasn’t at all what I imagined.
Angie @ Ba_BAMB
I saw another positive review for this book yesterday and put it right on my tbr list. It looks so good. I’m glad you enjoyed it, too!
Sweet. I look forward to reading your thoughts 🙂
Ack! I need to try something by her
I’ve only read some of her adult books.
worried not sure how I am going to feel about it, I do want to read it but I don’t doubt it be hard at the current climate
Those were my fears and thankfully this was very different.
Welll this is different. I am most curious not. I am glad that this one isn’t all about the school shooting, and I am so curious about the thriller aspects. Armstrong is a got author for me so I will have to try this.
It was fast-paced and kept me engaged without making me a sobbing mess 🙂
I always enjoy the books by the author so I’m curious to try this one as well
I will be curious to see what you think!
Holy Moly Kim what a premise. I’m also reading a school shooting series that started two years ago but it’s 20yrs after about the survivors. I would have a hard time I think reading this too. I’m glad you were glad you finally read it.
Yeah, I don’t think I could read one with a current shooting premise.
I have this book on my TBR. Taking something out of the headlines and writing about it in a fiction book is always an iffy chance, especially with this topic. I would really love to see how the author portrays it. I have also heard all good things about this book so I am really looking forward to reading it.
Enjoy, the title is perfect as this deals with the Aftermath, friendships, families and we get a little suspense thriller.
Aj @ Read All The Things!
I have this book on my TBR list, but I was nervous about reading it because of the subject. We have enough shootings in real life. I don’t know if I want to read about fictional ones. I’m glad you liked it and thought the characters were realistic. Great review!
That was my feelings initially as well.
Tanya @ Rantings of a Reading Addict
Kelley does interesting YA and really approaches some tough subjects. I’m glad that it turned out to be a thriller and didn’t go any deeper into the feelings that could potentially be evoked.
Yeah, I have not read many of her YA books but this was unique.
So glad you liked this too Kim. I was afraid it would be too upsetting too but she really did handle it all so well.
Yes, she did a wonderful job.
so happy to see you enjoyed this read. I am currently reading this book right now and to be honest, I didn’t know the suspense thriller part was in the book. I am so happy for that. I thought it was just a realistic fiction read. There I go for assuming. I am about halfway through and loving it.
I had no idea either and likes the mystery of it all.
I’m glad you decided to give this a chance and did find it to be a well written book. I am really curious about this one. I know the topic is really upsetting, but I’ve always found books about school shootings to be fascinating -it’s interesting to me to see how different authors tackle the topic.
This was different and I am glad I read it as well.
I heard nothing but great things about this book. The subkjexct matter is indeed disturbing, but I guess the suspence evened things out.
Yes and that it truly took place after.
I have heard a lot about this book and what a tough subject matter. I have this on my to read list. Kim, you wrote an outstanding review!
Awe thanks, Cyndy. Cyndy right? I noticed (after how many years) you spell it with a Y on your site.
Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews
I really want to check this author out – I haven’t read any of her books. And I’m OK with being upset with books, it’s always worse when I read about those things in the news…
Great review, Kim!
Lexxie, I am an ugly crier and an emotional reader, but this was different and suspenseful.
I’ve been seeing positive reviews for this one. And I’m really interested in its subject matter. The last school shooting I read was This is Where it Ends and it was mostly an okay read for me. This one sounds entirely different though especially since it’s set years after the shooting 🙂
While we get tidbits of the actual event, this is truly about the aftermath combined with a suspense thread.