After Ever After
is a middle grade novel by American author Jordan Sonnenblick, first published in 2010. It is a direct sequel to Sonnenblick’s acclaimed novel Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie
, which focused on the Alper family and how they coped with son Jeffrey’s cancer. The sequel picks up four years after Jeffrey has gone into remission when Jeffrey is a young teenager, and focuses on Jeffrey’s worries about whether he’ll stay healthy, how he deals with his return to normal life, and his friendship with fellow cancer survivor Tad, who is still struggling with major health issues. Exploring themes of coming of age, how kids and teens cope with mortality, and the role of family in recovering from illness, After Ever After
received the same high praise that the previous book in the series did and is considered among the best middle grade novels dealing with illness. It was the winner of the 2011 American Library Association Award for Middle Grade Fiction.After Ever After
begins shortly after the events of Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie,
as Jeffrey Alper is in fourth grade and in remission from leukemia. However, he is still dealing with major issues as a result of his cancer, both socially and physically. He is awkward about the fact that everyone in his school knows his personal business, as a result of all the fundraisers and events held in Jeffrey’s honor while he was sick. However, he tries to fit in at school and put it out of his mind. One day, a new student is brought into his class. The boy, named Thaddeus Ibsen, is a cancer survivor as well, and still has a lot of residual health issues. He has no hair and a significant scar from brain surgery, as well as a serious limp. The teacher instructs Thaddeus, who likes to be called Tad, to sit next to Jeffrey. Jeffrey remarks to the reader that this is the day he met his new best friend.
Four years later, Jeffrey and Tad are best friends and have supported each other through all their challenges. Although Jeffrey’s health continued to improve, Tad had many health setbacks and is mostly confined to a wheelchair. Jeffrey has struggled academically, and both boys use laptops in school due to ongoing fine motor skills issues. Jeffrey’s academic issues include struggles with math, and as a kid he depended a lot on the help of his older brother Steven. However, now Jeffrey is a teenager, and Steven is an adult who has dropped out of college and moved to Africa to continue his passion of studying native African drummers. Despite his friendship with Tad, Jeffrey feels more alone than ever. That changes, however, when Jeffrey meets a girl named Lindsey. From minute one, he’s infatuated with her and gets up the courage to tell her how he feels. She reciprocates, and soon they’re a couple. However, the school soon announces that there’ll be a standardized test at the end of eighth grade and everyone will be required to pass in order to move on to ninth grade. Jeffrey is worried he’ll struggle to pass, and Tad offers to tutor him while Jeffrey’s mother works to get an exemption for Jeffrey. He’s able to get passing grades in math classes, but struggles. Lindsay temporarily breaks off their relationship outside school, telling him he needs to focus on the test.
As the test grows closer, Jeffrey studies hard, and the story starts to spread around the school. More and more people begin talking about how unfair the standardized tests are. On the first day of testing, which is a practice test, Tad is the first student to walk out of the testing room, and it soon becomes clear that he’s organized a mass walkout along with Lindsey in support of Jeffrey and other students who are struggling. The debate soon goes mainstream, and parents and teachers begin questioning the state’s practices for standardized testing. However, as this debate rages, Tad winds up in the hospital again due to a relapse of his cancer. Jeffrey is devastated, but he decides to channel it into a good purpose. He’s healthy physically, and decides to do a bike-a-thon to raise money for cancer research in Tad’s name. Jeffrey leads the bike-a-thon and bikes hard, raising a lot of money. However, when he finishes the race, he learns that Tad went into sudden liver failure in the hospital and passed away. He’s crushed, and relies on the support of his family and Lindsey to help him through his grief. In the end, Jeffrey learns he passed his standardized tests and graduates middle school. He accepts both his and Tad’s diplomas at the ceremony, and then visits Tad’s grave with Lindsey. As he talks to Tad’s headstone, he swears he can hear his friend’s voice.
Jordan Sonnenblick is an American author of young adult fiction. He is the author of ten novels between 2004 and 2016, including three in the Dodger
series. He is a graduate of Stuyvesant High School and former English teacher.