Author: Jillian Eaton
Rating: 3/5 Stars
After Ever is a novel unlike anything I’ve ever read before. In fact, after pondering over it for a solid twenty-four hours, I’m still not quite sure what to make of it. I really liked it, but I wish there was more. I loved the protagonist, but I wish there was more development for her. I thought the ending was thought-provoking, but it was far too abrupt. Yet, whatever After Ever may be, there is no denying that it is original, unique, and a startling breath of fresh air.
The last thing Winnie wants to do is spend her winter at a vacation resort with her younger brother, father, and Girlfriend #3. Ever since the untimely death of her mother, Winnie has struggled to come to terms with her grief, lashing out at her family and pushing everyone away. Furthermore, her father seems to be stuck in a stupor and blindly listens to his gold-digger girlfriend. So, when Winnie meets Sam Trent, a handsome young guy, at the resort, she believes that things are looking up for the better. However, when Winnie finds out that Sam Trent died seven years ago, she is forced to acknowledge that something is wrong. In fact, she is forced to admit, just a few days later, that she is dead.
After Ever is a novel that can be split in two parts – Before Winnie Died and After Winnie Died. Winnie, our protagonist, is not an easy character to like – she is rude, snappy, and pushes people away. Yet, she is also remarkably human and struggling to cope with her grief, all while trying to live with the family she still has. I admired Eaton’s manner of conveying Winnie’s depth of raw emotion so realistically and I immediately fell in love with her narration of this tale. Although the idea of a deceased family member has already been done before in Young Adult Fiction, Eaton managed to write it in a new and refreshing manner through Winnie’s voice.
In addition to the protagonist, the world Eaton has created in the afterlife is unlike any I’ve read before and is far from being your typical (and rather cliché) heaven. In fact, it is a dangerous realm in itself and Winnie and Sam soon find themselves running for their lives – after they’re dead! I know, crazy right? Yet, this is all explained in a realistic manner and the world-building of After, the place Winnie finds herself in after death, is phenomenal. Furthermore, Eaton manages to convey the universal message of circumstances in life happening for a reason in a way that is not only clever, but easily understood. It was definitely not a theme I expected to emerge from this story, but I’m glad it did.
While I immensely enjoyed After Ever, I think its greatest downfall lay in its length – it was simply too short. I feel as if many aspects in this novel had the potential to be further developed and I wished I could have seen that. For instance, Winnie dies while trying to save her younger brother, Brian, and while I understood her love for her sibling because I have a younger brother myself, I’m not sure if other readers would be able to understand the extent of her affection. Furthermore, I was disappointed by Winnie’s lack of character development throughout the novel. If anything, I felt as if Sam understood how to control and respond to her better opposed to her truly changing. In addition, I really wanted to get some more insight into the people Winnie had left behind after her death. I found the idea of a family torn apart by grief to be very interesting and I hope that we are given a deeper outlook on this perspective in the sequel.
Nevertheless, I found that I loved the lack of a love story in this novel. Although there were plenty of hints of a romance between Sam and Winnie, they remained to be simply friends in this installment and I am curious to see where their story is headed in the sequel. After Ever was a novel I thoroughly enjoyed reading and I would definitely recommend it to anyone searching for a quick, refreshing, and unique read. Sam and Winnie’s story is one that I will be eagerly waiting to read more of in the sequel (especially after that cliffhanger ending!) and the endless possibilities of the world After will keep readers up and thinking long after they’ve read the last word.
I would like to thank Jillian Eaton, the author of After Ever, for providing me with a copy of her novel to read and review. I would also like it to be noted that this in no way impacted my review of this story and my thoughts on this book remain completely honest. Once again, a HUGE thank you to Jillian Eaton for giving me this opportunity!(: