ARC Review: Every Moment After by Joseph Moldover

Title: Every Moment After
Author: Joseph Moldover
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Hardcover, 368 Pages
Publication Date: April 9th, 2019

Summary: Eleven years after a shooting rocked the small town of East Ridge, New Jersey and left eighteen first graders in their classroom dead, survivors and recent high school graduates Matt Simpson and Cole Hewitt are still navigating their guilt and trying to move beyond the shadow of their town's grief. Will Cole and Matt ever be able to truly leave the ghosts of East Ridge behind? Do they even want to? As they grapple with changing relationships, falling in love, and growing apart, these two friends must face the question of how to move on—and truly begin living.

*I received an Advanced Reader's Copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.* 

When I first came across this book on a Goodreads 2019 debuts list, I was instantly intrigued. As someone who grew up in the tristate area, I remember how deeply the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting affected the community, even though I was in high school at the time and not as young as those first grade kids. It was a deeply impactful -- and horrible -- moment in my life, but I never really stopped to think about what happened to those survivors after -- they had to keep going through school, and having a life, and going to college and growing up, but how much of those horrors stayed with them? How much of it refused to ever leave? These were questions that I hadn't ever contemplated before, which is why this book shocked me to my core and made me think so deeply.

Rather than taking you through the gruesome event of the shooting itself -- rather, it's the summer after high school graduation for the survivors of that first grade class. As the summary explains, the story is told in the alternating perspectives of Cole and Matt, two recent high school graduates who were in the first grade class that the shooting took place in all those years ago. Matt lives with constant guilt because he was out sick from school that day -- and he doesn't know if it was a happy accident or that he was really meant to live. And then there's Cole, who is constantly haunted by the fact that he became the poster child for the shooting after a photo of him being carried about by a police officer went viral. Two boys with two very different stories about the same haunting day in history. 

This book is hard-hitting and strikes you right in the heart in the most impactful way. The story was filled, in a weird way, with so much hope among all of the heartbreak. Watching each boy get through his own struggles while finding out how they fit together and also their larger roles within the community all these years later.  This story also as all sorts of characters representative of the terrible events that happened at Sandy Hook that day, in this fictionalized setting -- the kids who didn't make it, the ones who were permanently injured, the ones who survived, the ones who weren't in school that day, and even a twin whose brother didn't make it out. 

The only character in this book that I wasn't a super huge fan of was Cole. I really like Matt's character, even when he had moments where he wasn't acting like the best person around, and he was always there for Cole as a good friend. Cole, on the other's hard to explain. There was nothing wrong with the way he was written, but just someone I didn't click with very much. He felt very whiny and pretentious to me. However, that was just my own personal opinion -- that doesn't mean that other readers won't enjoy him! But I really enjoyed Cole in terms of his love for Viola and his relationship with Matt, because their friendship bond was so strong and inspirational and it really made my heart warm to see.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading Every Moment After. Joseph Moldover definitely knows how to weave together a shocking story that pulls you in and keeps you interested from start to finish. If you're looking for an interesting 2019 debut that will hook you, this is definitely one I'd recommend, as long as you're okay dealing with grief, loss, depression, and references to a shooting that occurred in the past. I'm glad that I read this book and I'll definitely be recommending it to people -- hats off to Joseph Moldover for a great debut!

***Also, be on the lookout for my exclusive interview with 2019 debut author Joseph Moldover, coming soon!***

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