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After the Moment

Review

After the Moment

Garret Freymann-Weyr’s novels for young adults are inevitably distinct. Her teenagers seem serious beyond their years, deeply invested not only in their own lives but also in the often complicated lives of their adult family members. AFTER THE MOMENT is no exception, and its male protagonist further cements Freymann-Weyr’s reputation as a risk-taking author unafraid of tackling topics, and taking perspectives, unusual in young adult literature.

Leigh Hunter is a recent college graduate, ready to embark on a career as an international journalist, when a chance meeting at a dinner party casts his mind violently back to his senior year in high school, when he first knew both love and heartbreak intimately. The summer before his senior year is filled with a different kind of heartache: the news that his younger stepsister Maggie’s father has been killed in a car crash. Leigh travels from his mom’s home in New York City to Maryland to comfort her, and when she asks him to stay, he agrees to spend his senior year at her school.

Leigh is adaptable and bright, and he treats the move as an adventure (especially when his school guidance counselor assures him that the transition might actually improve his college prospects). His only trepidation is being far away from Astra, his practically perfect, drop-dead gorgeous girlfriend. Astra is smart, confident, beautiful and self-assured. She assures Leigh that their relationship will survive even at a distance, but Leigh (who admits to himself, if not to her, that he doesn’t really love her) isn’t so sure, especially when he meets Maia Morland.

Maia is, Leigh reflects, “Astra’s opposite in almost every way. Astra did not walk --- she strode, allowing her height, her strength, and her thoughts to take up as much room as possible. Maia, it seemed to him, let her thoughts swarm thickly around her, creating a shield of protection.” Maia battles eating disorders, germ phobia, the compulsion to harm herself --- but she also has a thirst for beauty, a love of knowledge, and a vulnerable way of looking at the world that draws Leigh to her.

Leigh’s mother is a romance novelist, a writer who crafts her stories to culminate with that magic moment when the male and female romantic leads finally connect. But what happens when that moment is only the beginning, when a love connection results in only more complications, violence, misunderstanding and heartbreak? In many ways, AFTER THE MOMENT is an anti-romantic novel, one that treats the mysteries of love and the agonies of loss as two sides of the same coin, one that recognizes that romance seldom ends with “happily ever after.”

As in her other books, Freymann-Weyr here explores families that have formed, re-formed, broken and blended, all without losing their essential identity or their capacity for love. Her characters --- especially Leigh --- come off as remarkably mature and resilient, perhaps because they are so closely tied to the adults in their lives, perhaps because they have already become accustomed to change thanks to their shifting family lives. It’s always refreshing, however, to read about teenaged characters who think deeply about real-life concerns, who have genuine relationships with the adults in their lives, who care deeply not only about their friends but also about the kind of world they live in.

AFTER THE MOMENT is a serious, at times sorrowful book, but it speaks volumes about the capacity of the human heart, no matter how young, to love and love deeply.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on May 18, 2009

After the Moment
by Garret Freymann-Weyr

  • Publication Date: May 18, 2009
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
  • ISBN-10: 061860572X
  • ISBN-13: 9780618605729