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Reviewed by Cheryl E. Rodriguez for Readers' Favorite
Jamila Mikhail pens a story of tragedy in After Anderson. Two years have passed since Aly Feldman's best friend, Anderson Massey, entered their high school and began shooting. “Twenty people paid with their lives for everyone’s collective failure.” Aly remains tormented by the massacre. She feels great remorse for all those who lost their lives, especially Anderson. Although she survived, Aly lost her life that day as well. Two years of therapy hadn’t really helped and, consumed with memories, her recovery is unrealized. The pain comes and goes, but never leaves; it has become part of her. Yet, it is time to somehow move forward, time to return to Belden High School, the place where her life changed forever. On her return to school, Aly discovers friendship and moral support from the Petrov twins. Her new found friends become instrumental in bridging the gap between Aly’s old life and a new one. Is it really possible to have a life “After Anderson?”
“After you survive Anderson Massey your life doesn’t just pick up where it left off.” After Anderson by Jamila Mikhail wrenches your heart, challenges your soul, tests your personal morality and beliefs. I totally agree with the author’s statement in her commentary, if it “doesn’t bother you there’s something wrong.” We all need to learn to listen to the spoken and unspoken, and really pay attention to those around us. There were many aspects I admired, even more that I appreciated, and a few I could have done without. The story is multi-cultural, a bit political (honestly, my patriotism was battered a bit), yet very insightful. There is no denying, “The universe, with all of its flaws and disasters, was so beautifully and intricately crafted.” This line continues to echo in my mind. In saying that, how does one enjoy a book about a mass shooting? You don’t, but you do hope to gain an understanding of the cause of such a tragedy. Jamila Mikhail reveals the trauma that lingers long after such a violent act. After Anderson is the story of a survivor.
Written in the first person, the heroine’s thoughts and emotions are explicitly described, thus felt. Page by page, her character grows and evolves beyond the tragedy. She befriends an unlikely duo, the twins who open her eyes, change her perspective and encourage her to move forward. One of the key elements within the narrative are the letters between Aly and Anderson; they create raw realness and depth of soul. The words exchanged in those passages are my favorite part of the story. As the story concludes, the denouement reveals that life truly goes on. There is life “After Anderson.”