Title: Aftermath by Clara Kensie
Publisher: Merit Press
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Mystery/Suspense
Length: 288 pages
Book Rating: A
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss
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.
Aftermath by Clara Kensie is an emotional novel of courage, survival and hope.
Four years after she was abducted by a pedophile, sixteen year old Charlotte Weatherstone is finally rescued from her kidnapper and she wants nothing more than to pick up her life where it left off. Her happy homecoming is marred by the discovery that her twin sister Alexa is now a rebellious, defiant and troubled teenager and her parents’ once idyllic marriage fell apart due to the strain of her disappearance. Despite her best efforts to convince her family (and herself) that she is fine, Charlotte is often paralyzed by her memories of the torment she endured at the hands of her “Keeper”. As her perfect life fails to materialize, Charlotte becomes obsessed with uncovering the identity of the young girl the Keeper kidnapped and murdered before he abducted her. Once she figures out the Keeper’s type, she searches the faces of other missing children in hopes of identifying potential victims. Wanting to spare this girl’s family the agony of never knowing the truth about their daughter, Charlotte hopes FBI Agent Rick Lindo can help recover the girl’s remains. At the same time, navigating her way back into “normal” life is a heartrending journey that is oftentimes quite painful for Charlotte and her family.
Happy thoughts of her family sustained Charlotte during her time in captivity so she is ill-prepared for the discovery that reality in no way resembles her fantasy. Convinced Alexa followed their plans, she is stunned by her twin’s appearance and she is utterly shocked by her sister’s downward spiral. Charlotte is also devastated to learn the truth about her parents’ marriage and she is left reeling by her father’s announcement. Her reintegration back into her family is further tested by the media frenzy surrounding her rescue. Charlotte is also troubled by Alexa’s stunning accusations and the realization that her mom blames herself for the kidnapping. While she would like nothing more than to put her harrowing experience behind her, Charlotte’s memories often come rushing back when she least expects it and she is overwhelmed by feelings of powerlessness.
All of the characters are richly developed and their various reactions to Charlotte’s kidnapping are what one would expect a family to feel. Charlotte’s mom never gives up hope that her daughter will return home, but she completely shuts down and turns to alcohol to cope with her guilt and unbearable loss. Charlotte’s father needs closure to move on and he puts all his energies into running the charitable organization he founded that is dedicated to finding missing children. Alexa eschews the hopes and dreams the girls planned for their future and turned her back on their group of friends. No longer one of the popular crowd, her new friends are on the fringes and she begins experimenting with sex, drugs and alcohol. Despite the torture she endured in captivity, Charlotte remains surprisingly upbeat as she tries to keep the worst of what happened to her from her family and she is laser focused on picking up the pieces of her life. She is an incredibly brave young woman with amazing insight and an inordinate amount of compassion for others.
The story is multi-layered and extremely well-written. Clara Kensie deftly handles delicate and dark subject matter with a great deal of sensitivity and care. There is little doubt about what exactly Charlotte endured at the hands of kidnapper but these topics are lightly broached without many graphic details. The storyline’s many layers are slowly peeled back as Charlotte goes through her recovery and just when it appears everything has been revealed, the plot takes yet another stunning turn.
Aftermath by Clara Kensie is a captivating story of healing that is deeply affecting yet surprisingly hopeful as Charlotte and her family attempt to recover from a truly horrific, life-altering experience. The storyline is unique and brings to mind the real life kidnappings of Elizabeth Smart and Jaycee Duggard. It is a hard hitting must read young adult novel that I highly recommend to older teenage and adult readers.