Aftermath by Clara Kensie
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
As a young teen, Charlotte was kidnapped, and spent over four horrible years as a prisoner of her kidnapper, locked in his attic. The only thing that kept Charlotte going through the violence was the thoughts of her family: her mom, dad, and twin sister, Alexa. She imagined Alexa fulfilling all the fantasies the girls wrote down in their dream book. Then, one day, Charlotte manages to escape. She's suddenly "free," but the life she returns to as a sixteen-year-old is nothing like she imagined. Her parents have split, her mother is an alcoholic, her father is using her disappearance for fame, and her sister has completely changed. Charlotte, meanwhile, is struggling with the return to normalcy and finds herself obsessed with the girl kidnapped before herself: a girl her keeper tortured her with to behave, using her death as a way to keep Charlotte in life. Will Charlotte ever be able to move on until she knows what happened to the girl before her?
This was an interesting and rather original novel. Where often you get a story leading up to a kidnapping, or a mystery trying to solve who kidnapped someone, in Kensie's tale, Charlotte's actual confinement takes up little of the story. She learns who her kidnapper is pretty quickly (he never revealed his name to her). Instead, the novel truly does focus on the aftermath of her kidnapping: how will Charlotte recover from this horrible trauma. And, indeed, how will her family recover as well? The novel hooks you very quickly, and I found myself then wondering how Kensie would sustain such an odd plot without the push of a kidnapping or whodunnit (although there is Charlotte's desire to find the girl before her, but we only have her word that she existed). But the novel is very nuanced and has a psychological depth to it. Initially, I was wary that Charlotte wasn't going to exhibit a lot of signs of a young girl who spent four years trapped and abused; she seemed to jump easily from twelve to sixteen. But as Kensie peels away the layers, we do see how much Charlotte is suffering, and how hard it is for her to adjust to life outside of the attic.
While the tale focuses on Charlotte, we also get to see how her disappearance affected her family, as well, which is an interesting technique, as many kidnapping stories don't always involve the family. The dynamic between Charlotte and her twin, for instance, is a complex one, and well-portrayed. Kensie also throws in several surprises along the way, plot-wise: in a novel where you wouldn't think there would be much to hide. These devices don't seem contrived, however, but fit in nicely with the flow of the story.
Overall, this was a nice change of pace from a typical kidnapping novel and well-written. I still think some of Charlotte's adjustment was a little too easy overall, but it didn't detract from my overall enjoyment of the novel. A strong 3.5 stars.
I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and Edelweiss (thank you!) in return for an unbiased review; it is available everywhere as of 11/1/2016.
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