Blog Tour: Afterward by Jennifer Mathieu + Guest post



Welcome to our stop tour on Afterward tour for Jennifer Mathieu. We are thrilled to be part of this tour as we loved this story! 

Afterward
Author: Jennifer Mathieu
Reading Level: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary
Released: September 20th 2016
Review Source: Roaring Brook Press

When Caroline's little brother is kidnapped, his subsequent rescue leads to the discovery of Ethan, a teenager who has been living with the kidnapper since he was a young child himself. In the aftermath, Caroline can't help but wonder what Ethan knows about everything that happened to her brother, who is not readjusting well to life at home. And although Ethan is desperate for a friend, he can't see Caroline without experiencing a resurgence of traumatic memories. But after the media circus surrounding the kidnappings departs from their small Texas town, both Caroline and Ethan find that they need a friend--and their best option just might be each other


Kidnapping Post by  Jennifer Mathieu

I still remember the night I told my dad I was convinced I was going to be kidnapped.
The time was the mid 1980s and the place was my safe, suburban Virginia split level home.  As my sweet father tucked me into bed, 8-year-old me confessed to him my biggest fear – a fear so big I could only whisper it. 
“I’m scared that I’m going to end up like the kids on the paper bags that mom brings home from the grocery store,” I managed.  
My dad tried to comfort me, reassuring me that the odds of the word MISSING being stamped on a paper bag or a milk carton over a grainy version of my school picture were highly unlikely.  My chances of getting struck by lightning were much bigger, he insisted.  But despite my dad’s kind words and his attempts to get me to see the issue rationally, the fear of getting snatched up by a scary man in a van was endemic to my 1980s girlhood.  
It was the era of the Missing Child.  The era of Adam Walsh and the birth of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.  The era of tiny, innocent faces staring back at us from milk cartons, paper sacks, and posters at the mall.  It was a time that made growing up feel scary, and turned parents into nervous wardens, hovering over our every move.
I’ve journeyed back to that deep sense of anxiety with my latest young adult novel Afterward, a story that follows two teenagers from a small Texas town whose lives are linked by a kidnapping and long term abduction.  Based loosely on real events that occurred in Missouri in 2007, as soon as the plot came to me, it would not let me go, and I believe I wrote Afterward as a way of tackling one of my biggest fears.  After coming of age during a period when it seemed like evil men were lurking around every corner and on every playground, I simply couldn’t ignore the idea of writing a book about abduction.  
Perhaps facing this childhood terror was a way to take control of it – I’m not sure.  I wish I could say writing Afterward eased my worries, but to be honest, my research into child kidnappings, Stockholm Syndrome, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder didn’t quell the nightmares of my girlhood.  And now that I’m a mother myself, the hours spent reading about cases like Elizabeth Smart’s and Jaycee Lee Dugard’s have made me much less likely to let my eyes wander from my child during playdates at the park – even for a second.
Of course now that I’m a grownup, I try to reason with myself – much like my father did with me all those years ago.  Statistics tell us that the stories of nightmares – the cases we know by name, like Jacyee’s and Elizabeth’s – are truly rare.  In fact, according to the U.S. Justice Department, the odds of a child becoming the victim of a stereotypical kidnapping that ends in murder are the lowest they’ve been in recorded history – it happens to 8% of the 105 children abducted by strangers in the United States each year.   (http://www.ojjdp.gov/pubs/249249.pdf)  We now know that most of the missing kids on paper bags and milk cartons back in the 1980s were runaways or were taken by noncustodial parents during custody disputes; most were not children snatched randomly off the sidewalk.  And while we should certainly not turn our backs on kids who are living on the streets or trapped in the turmoil of a messy divorce, the missing child epidemic is not the stranger danger crisis we were led to believe it was back when I was growing up.
When I need a boost of confidence, I remind myself of that and I find myself running to Free Range Kids (www.freerangekids.com), a website run by Lenore Skenazy, a mother and journalist who has built a career out of reminding parents that children benefit from unsupervised time and independence.  She regularly blogs about statistics, worst-first thinking, and helicopter parenting, urging parents to remember that children are probably statistically in bigger danger as a passenger in a car driven by their own mom or dad than by an afternoon playing unsupervised in the front yard.  And I know she’s right.
But still…
As much as I want to be guided solely by numbers and logic, the emotional writer in me is drawn to the stories that break our hearts and send us running to hug our children tight.  The stories about the one-in-a-million that remind us why parenthood feels like a constant tightrope walk, always one slip away from a tragedy.  The stories that make headlines are the ones that play into every parent’s deepest worries – the distracted gaze at the park, the permission given to walk to the store alone – all of them operate as the first chapter in tales we never wanted to hear.
It’s this tension between irrational fear and clear logic that I allowed myself to experience and explore as I researched and wrote Afterward, and as I interviewed experts in the fields of mental health and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  I had the opportunity to speak with clinicians who had worked with victims of long term abductions, and I channeled the information they generously shared with me into my character of Ethan, who returns home to his parents after being held by his kidnapper for four years.  My interviews were long and full of complex questions, and during one conversation, I ended up admitting to a therapist how much I was terrified of the stories she’d heard about firsthand.  She was tasked with the difficult job of informing me about such stories and trying to convince me how rare they really are, all in the same conversation.
While the research wasn’t easy, I was able to take something positive from it.  I learned that human beings are truly resilient, capable of surviving the inconceivable.  As I told Ethan’s story, I felt driven to focus my novel on what happens after he comes home and as he tries to reconnect with loving parents who spent years fearing the worst and begins connecting with the world around him once again.  I hope that at its core, Afterward is a story about recovery and friendship, about healing and faith.  It’s a book that I hope keeps readers up at night, not because it scares them, but because it reminds them that we can overcome the unthinkable – even our biggest childhood fears.     


Hi! I’m young adult author Jennifer Mathieu (pronounced Muh-two, but if you speak French you can pronounce it better than that. Sadly, I don’t speak French.) I’m a writer and English teacher who lives in Texas with my family. A native of the East Coast and a former journalist, I enjoy writing contemporary young adult fiction that treats teenagers like real people. I love to eat and hate to cook.



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