Book Review: Aftermath by Clara Kensie

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Title: Aftermath
Author: Clara Kensie
Publisher: Merit Press
Release Date: November 15, 2016
Genre:  Mystery, Young Adult

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aftermath-kensieAftermath
Clara Kensie
Merit Press, November 2016
ISBN 978-1-4405-9870-8
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Charlotte survived four long years as a prisoner in the attic of her kidnapper, sustained only by dreams of her loving family. The chance to escape suddenly arrives, and Charlotte fights her way to freedom. But an answered prayer turns into heartbreak. Losing her has torn her family apart. Her parents have divorced: Dad’s a glutton for fame, Mom drinks too much, and Charlotte’s twin is a zoned-out druggie. Her father wants Charlotte write a book and go on a lecture tour, and her mom wants to keep her safe, a virtual prisoner in her own home. But Charlotte is obsessed with the other girl who was kidnapped, who never got a second chance at life–the girl who nobody but Charlotte believes really existed. Until she can get justice for that girl, even if she has to do it on her own, whatever the danger, Charlotte will never be free.

When occasionally a child (or adult, for that matter) is found after having been abducted and held in captivity for a long time, it’s a top news story, as well it should be. The very rarity of such a case makes it even more frightening and we’re completely fascinated along with being horrified and can’t help feeling thankful it’s happening to someone else. That’s not a callous reaction, just human nature.

Ms. Kensie has done a really good job of tapping into the feelings of the abducted girl, Charlotte, and those of the people in her world and outside it. It didn’t take long for me to connect with this teen, with her lingering fear, her confusion, her determination to make things right—or, as right as they could be—for that other girl. Charlotte is an intelligent girl, severely hampered by her isolation for so many years, but she manages to find her way and I liked her attitude and personality very much.

No thanks to her parents or her sister, Charlotte comes across as healthier, mentally and emotionally, than the people who were left behind when she was taken. It’s important to note that this isn’t the author’s way of making light of such an abduction; rather, Ms. Kensie opens a window onto the damage that’s done to all parties when horrible things happen. After all, there isn’t much that’s worse than being snatched from everything and everyone you know but losing a loved one to the unknown and having no answers ranks a very close second.

Aftermath is not Ms. Kensie’s first book but it’s the first I’ve read and, if this one is any indication, I think I’m going to like her other work as much as I did this. At the very least, I’ll enjoy finding out if I’m right.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2016.

About the Author

clara-kensieWinner of the 2015 RITA Award for Best First Book

Clara Kensie grew up near Chicago, reading every book she could find and using her diary to write stories about a girl with psychic powers who solved mysteries. She purposely did not hide her diary, hoping someone would read it and assume she was writing about herself. Since then, she’s swapped her diary for a computer and admits her characters are fictional, but otherwise she hasn’t changed one bit.

Today, Clara is the author of dark fiction for young adults. Her debut, the super-romantic thriller RUN TO YOU BOOK ONE: DECEPTION SO DEADLY is the winner of the prestigious RITA Award for Best First Book.

The RUN TO YOU series was named to several Best Books of 2014 lists, including RT Magazine Editors’ Pick. The two-book series was originally published as a six-part serial by Harlequin Teen in 2014 (First Sight, Second Glance, Third Charm, Fourth Shadow, Fifth Touch, and Sixth Sense). By popular demand, the six-part serial is now available as two full-length books: DECEPTION SO DEADLY and DECEPTION SO DARK.

Her next book is AFTERMATH, a dark, ripped-from-the-headlines contemporary about a girl who returns home four years after being kidnapped, only to find her family has fallen apart in her absence. To fix her broken family–and help find the body of her captor’s first victim–the girl must first heal herself. AFTERMATH is a story of hope, healing, and triumph over tragedy, perfect for fans of ROOM and THE LOVELY BONES. Available November 15th 2016 from Merit Press.

Clara’s favorite foods are guacamole and cookie dough. But not together. That would be gross.

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Book Review: A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen

A Night DividedA Night Divided
Jennifer A. Nielsen
Scholastic Press, August 2015
ISBN 978-0-545-68242-8
Hardcover

Imagine a couple members of your family go out of town for a night. When darkness descends a fence is erected; enclosing your home, neighbors and half of the city. From the next morning forward, part of your family is on one side of the fence, unequivocally separated from you.

Almost incomprehensible, yet this isn’t the beginning of a dystopian saga. A Night Divided is a heart-breakingly honest retelling of a monumental event experienced by the citizens of Berlin, merely fifty-four years ago. Certainly, most people know “of” The Berlin Wall; albeit in a vague, didn’t-I-hear-about-that-coming-down-David-Hosselhoff-or-something, kind of way. That really doesn’t seem good enough.

In her remarkably ingenious way, Ms. Nielsen took true government oppression and resilient, determined traits of the people to give us vibrant characters against gray, dismal lives. With unprecedented freedom to speak within the pages of this compelling tome; courageous, captivating—yet ordinary, every-day folks–tell their story in a way that will affect everyone.

Introduced as a spunky, outspoken little girl; Gerta grows exponentially, as she relays her years behind the wall in an admirably confident voice. Innocently, and only initially, Gerta watched invasive actions of the police against many of her East Berlin brethren. She puzzled as to why the adults just stood alongside her, also only watching. Frustration and anger quickly overtook her benign curiosity.

Bonding with her beloved older brother, repeatedly witnessing stark, harsh grief as time and again former friends were killed in escape attempts; Gerta learned. And she accepted. There was only one person that could initiate change and there was only one person that she could absolutely, wholly and completely trust. She had only herself. With that resolution, Gerta springs into a fast-paced, harrowing and gripping mission that takes the reader on an emotional roller coaster ride of feels.

As this young girl doggedly follows her heart, her spirit and hope spread to touch others with varying and surprising effects. More than one family’s story, or even one city’s story, A Night Divided is about true friendships, kindness, generosity, sacrifices and regrets. Of course, Ms. Nielsen wrote it, so it also stands that A Night Divided is just an outstanding, enthralling, fun read …. for Middle Graders, High Schoolers, Young Adults as well as Not-So-Young-Adults.

Reviewed by jv poore, September 2015.

Book Review: Don’t Ever Get Old by Daniel Friedman

Don’t Ever Get Old
Daniel Friedman
Minotaur Books, May 2012
ISBN 978-0-312-60693-0
Hardcover

Buck Schatz, an eighty-eight-year-old member of the “greatest generation” has, as ordered by his wife Rose, gone to the bedside of a dying comrade in arms—against his better judgment. Once there, his old army buddy, Jim Wallace, confesses he once took a bribe allowing the SS officer who ran their POW camp to escape. The bribe consisted of one gold bar, and according to Jim, there had been many more where that came from. What’s more, he knows the SS officer, Heinrich Ziegler, has lived all these years in the U.S. free as a bird. Who better, Jim demands, than the man who survived Ziegler’s worst brutalizations and who is a former police detective, to go after the war criminal. Oh, yes, and the gold, which he wants Buck to share with his family.

For such a supposedly well-kept secret, Buck soon finds just about everybody imaginable knows about the gold, and they all want a piece of it. Some want all of it. So Buck, suffering from increasing frailty and forgetfulness (he has to write himself notes about everything he wants to remember) is swept into one more case. He can’t count on the cops to be his allies, but his grandson Billy—under the nickname Tequila—becomes his sidekick as violent murder dogs his investigation.

I loved this book. Buck, with all his foibles and supposedly deteriorating mental acuity is a real kick in the pants. And the reader just knows that Tequila is sure to one day become as interesting as his grandfather. The mystery is good, but it’s the characters who make this book. Author Friedman brings them to life with sharp dialogue and just the right amount of description.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, July 2012.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.

Book Review: Don't Ever Get Old by Daniel Friedman

Don’t Ever Get Old
Daniel Friedman
Minotaur Books, May 2012
ISBN 978-0-312-60693-0
Hardcover

Buck Schatz, an eighty-eight-year-old member of the “greatest generation” has, as ordered by his wife Rose, gone to the bedside of a dying comrade in arms—against his better judgment. Once there, his old army buddy, Jim Wallace, confesses he once took a bribe allowing the SS officer who ran their POW camp to escape. The bribe consisted of one gold bar, and according to Jim, there had been many more where that came from. What’s more, he knows the SS officer, Heinrich Ziegler, has lived all these years in the U.S. free as a bird. Who better, Jim demands, than the man who survived Ziegler’s worst brutalizations and who is a former police detective, to go after the war criminal. Oh, yes, and the gold, which he wants Buck to share with his family.

For such a supposedly well-kept secret, Buck soon finds just about everybody imaginable knows about the gold, and they all want a piece of it. Some want all of it. So Buck, suffering from increasing frailty and forgetfulness (he has to write himself notes about everything he wants to remember) is swept into one more case. He can’t count on the cops to be his allies, but his grandson Billy—under the nickname Tequila—becomes his sidekick as violent murder dogs his investigation.

I loved this book. Buck, with all his foibles and supposedly deteriorating mental acuity is a real kick in the pants. And the reader just knows that Tequila is sure to one day become as interesting as his grandfather. The mystery is good, but it’s the characters who make this book. Author Friedman brings them to life with sharp dialogue and just the right amount of description.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, July 2012.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.