Every Moment After, by Joseph Moldover
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Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Release Date: April 9, 2019
Length: 368 pages
Times Read: Once
Best friends Matt and Cole grapple with their changing relationships during the summer after high school in this impactful, evocative story about growing up and moving on from a traumatic past.
Surviving was just the beginning.
Eleven years after a shooting rocked the small town of East Ridge, New Jersey and left eighteen first graders in their classroom dead, survivors and recent high school graduates Matt Simpson and Cole Hewitt are still navigating their guilt and trying to move beyond the shadow of their town’s grief. Will Cole and Matt ever be able to truly leave the ghosts of East Ridge behind? Do they even want to?
As they grapple with changing relationships, falling in love, and growing apart, these two friends must face the question of how to move on—and truly begin living.
Ya’ll, this one was SO. GOOD.
♥ I don’t even know how much the synopsis does the book justice. Matt and Cole are one of the best friendships I’ve ever seen. In our world of toxic masculinity, boys will be boys, and bro-culture, Cole and Matt are the most supportive friends, even when they don’t entirely understand each other. Matt has never had the problems Cole has with talking to the girl he has a crush on, but Matt isn’t here to make him feel bad about it. Matt is here to help create opportunities for Cole to interact with his crush, and to encourage him the whole time. Cole would never take the risks that Matt does with his Type 1 diabetes, but he knows that Matt is going to keep on doing it, so Cole learned everything he could years ago to help keep his buddy safe. They’re just there for each other, day in, day out.
♥ Eleven years after a school shooting that devastated their first grade class, Cole and Matt are finally graduating from high school with the rest of their class.
“People want to forget. No one would ever say it, but I think this town will be glad to see our class leave. They put up all the memorials you’d expect, but there was no need: we’re living reminders.”
This book is about the aftermath, the toll that being one of the living can take. There’s little talk about the shooting itself. And as often as they mention the shooter himself, there’s no discussion of why he did it, or if there was a trial later. This book is about the survivors, the way the parents of the dead chose to grieve, the injuries that still plague some of the children. Graduation day is handled with grace and respect for the students who died, even as they all hope that this is the last time that the media will be so involved.
♥ Cole and Matt both suffer from some major undiagnosed PTSD and survivors guilt (I thought I was very smart for diagnosing them both on my own and wondered how the author never figured it out until I read his bio and realized he’s a psychologist sooo…yeah. Undiagnosed on purpose, Katie, duh). Cole is The Boy in the Picture, after a photo of him being carried out of the classroom by a police officer was widely circulated, even winning a Pulitzer prize. But Cole also can’t remember a thing about the shooting. He knows what happened from the accounts of others, but has no memories of his own. This is endlessly frustrating to Matt, who was kept home from school the day of the shooting due to his diabetes. He’s always wondering where he would have been sitting that day, what might have happened to him, if he would have lived or died. He doesn’t really know if he should still be here or not.
“Still, I don’t move. I wait, though I don’t know what I’m waiting for, other than for this summer to be over, for life to move on, and for me to find out whether I’m supposed to be a part of it or not.”
People say how lucky he was, but Matt can’t see staying home sick as lucky. He sees not being there that day as unfinished business. He’s got major, major survivor’s guilt, and he and Cole so desperately need someone to help them both through their emotions from that day.
♥ Look, there is so much else that I can’t even get into because this review would go on forever, but it’s all just incredible. The Type 1 diabetes rep, which I so rarely see in books, is woven throughout the story without taking over. There’s a lot of information presented, and the disease definitely impacts Matt’s life. It isn’t just mentioned a few times before fading into the background. Cole is also still grieving the death of his father only a year ago, and Matt is trying to connect with the autistic twin brother of he and Cole’s friend, Andy, who died in the shooting.
Favorite Quotes: “Maybe they’ll forget about us after this, and then we’ll know whether it’s worse than being remembered.”
“There’s a difference between what we want and what we get.”