by Kristin Harmel
Delacorte Press (Random House), 2010
"There's before. And then there's after."
Lacey didn't mean to take so long primping in the mirror. Oh, maybe she wanted her brothers to complain. It was all part of the Saturday morning game they played. Lacey and her brothers have breakfast with their dad every Saturday morning giving their mom "mom" time alone. This ONE Saturday would be forever burned in Lacey's memory. If only she had been on time. If only she had seen the car sooner. If only she had yelled to her father. Maybe the accident wouldn't have happened. But, it did. Now, Lacey carries the weight of all the guilt of her father's death.
Lacey is "the girl whose father died." No one at school knows how to act around her. She is alone and feels out of place. One day, the school counselor asks Lacey to talk to another girl who has lost a parent. Kelsi's mother has just died of cancer, and the school counselor thinks it is a good idea for both girls to "help" each other.
Just talking to Kelsi helps Lacey feel better. She realizes that there are more students who have lost parents and feels the need to reach out to them. A new boy named Sam comes to their school, and Lacey has feelings for him, too.
After--yes, pun intended, her father's death, the family dynamic is totally out of whack. Because her father seemed to be the glue that held the family together, they drift apart. Lacey's mom becomes a workaholic who never even notices her kids need her--now more than ever. Lacey's older brother Logan has anger issues. Her younger brother keeps all his feelings inside and won't talk to anyone. Slowly, because of the group, Lacey is able to deal with the fact that her dad's death really wasn't her fault. Readers will like Lacey--a girl who is able to turn a horrible tragedy into a healing process, not just for herself, but for others as well.
After is a compelling read. Recommended for all YA collections. Grades 7-high school. It does mention teens drinking at a party and drinking and driving, but the characters take care of each other and do not let friends drive drunk. Harmel wrote this novel after meeting Kate Atwood, founder of Kate's Club, a club in Atlanta, Georgia, formed to help young adults who have lost a parent.