By Author / Illustrator
A.F. Harrold, illus Emily Gravett
Friends and family
Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Paperback / softback
Fact: Ember and Ness are best friends. There's nothing more to say about it. It is what it is. It is what will always be. Ember and Ness.Then Ness dies. It is sudden and unexpected and leaves Ember completely empty. How can this be? When Ember finds a way into the Afterworld, she determines to bring Ness back. Because that's what friends do isn't it? They rescue each other. They help. They never give up. Ember and Ness. That don't change.
A powerful, poignant, darkly comic and deeply moving story about friendship at its most extraordinary.
The Afterwards is, as I fully expected it to be, a very special story. It tackles the tricky and complex issue of loss and bereavement from a child's perspective, but we are in safe hands with AF Harrold and Emily Gravett. That is not to say that it is in any way simplistic, patronising or even rosily reassuring. It is a story that is powerfully told, one that provokes almost as many questions as it answers; peppered with dark humour whilst offering a stark picture of loss, with real humanity and warmth at its heart.
Ember (December) and Ness (Happiness) are inseparable. As best friends, they do everything together. That is, until a tragic accident leads to Ness's sudden death. Ember's grief for Ness is beautifully and savagely described. Suddenly, however, a strange turn of events leads to Ember stumbling upon the starkly monochrome and bleak Afterworld. Ember is determined to do whatever it takes bring her friend back home again, but things are not quite as straightforward as they seem.
Emily Gravett's beautiful yet eerie illustrations really help to transport the reader into this strange afterlife experience. A real highlight for me is the charming and yet totally believable relationship between Ember and her father, Harry. Harrold's characters, as ever, grab your heart yet without a trace of saccharine sweetness. You feel like you could reach out and touch them.
This book is a real thing of beauty and belongs in all school libraries. Highly recommended!
199 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Emily Marcuccilli, school librarian
Suggested Reading Age 9+