Not After Everything by Michelle Levy
Published: August 4, 2015 by Dial
Source: Received from the publisher
A gritty but hopeful love story about two struggling teens—
great for fans of The Spectacular Now, Willow, and Eleanor and Park
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). Tyler finds a job that crashes him into Jordyn, his former childhood friend turned angry-loner goth-girl. She brings Tyler an unexpected reprieve from the never-ending pity party his life has become. How could he not fall for her? But with his dad more brutally unpredictable than ever, Tyler knows he can’t risk bringing Jordyn too deeply into the chaos. So when violence rocks his 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? [goodreads]
I have such a soft spot when it comes to contemporary YAs told from the male point of view. And this novel did not disappoint one bit with its authentic, raw, emotional voice. Immediately I was drawn to Tyler's story. I saw his broken, misshapen, ugly world for what it was -- but I also saw the beauty and potential of what it could be. Tyler's voice is the type that demands to be heard, but not in an overbearing way. His story slowly unfolds through soft whispers, heart-stopping, emotional truths. I could not tear my eyes away from this book until I saw it out until the very end.
Tyler's world revolved around high school football and the group of people he called his friends. While his home life was a wreck, he put on the shiny facade that he'd crafted so well, to impress his girlfriend and those who idolized him. But when his mother commits suicide, and his father uses him as the punching bag to take alcohol induced grief out on, Tyler's facade begins to crack. He quits the football team, and breaks up with his girlfriend. He's pulling away, burrowing in a dark hole, just biding his time until he's eighteen and old enough to leave his abusive father behind. But the death of his mother continues to haunt him. It's through his one stable relationship, with his therapist, that he begins to mend the pieces of his broken life back together again.
I really appreciate the brutally honest relationship Tyler had with his therapist. Their interactions were among my favorites through out the novel. My heart hurt for this broken boy, and seeing him able to reach out and really talk to someone, showed such potential and growth. While finding his way down this new path, he also takes on a new job at a local photographer's studio. It's here that he is forced to take a second look at someone who opens his eyes in a whole new way.
Tyler and Jordyn are complete opposites. Their relationship begins as a mutual hate, but under all that fire lies a passion for something more. I really appreciated the slow build that was formed between these two characters, and it wasn't an instant "let me fix you" type of relationship. They had to understand one another first before they could build that trust. It wasn't always easy, but the pay off was definitely worth the struggles.
This novel reminded me a lot of Mindi Scott's writing in Freefall, another YA contemporary told from a male point of view that I immediately gravitated towards. The rawness and authenticity felt very spot-on, and I never questioned the protagonists's motives or intentions. This novel packs a very powerful emotional punch; presenting dark and gritty themes. There is no sugar coating in the realism of its portrayal. If you're a fan of books that make you feel, and think long after the page has been turned, then I highly recommend picking this one up. It's a story that will stick with me, one I'll continue to recommend for years to come.