GABE IN THE AFTER, by Shannon Doleski, Amulet Books, June 28, 2022, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 10 and up)
Gabe In the After, by Shannon Doleski, is a post-apocalyptic upper middle-grade novel lightly inspired by Anne of Green Gables.
It’s fourteen-year-old Gabe Sweeney’s day to check for survivors . . .
Two years after a global pandemic, 20 survivors (most of them children) have relocated from their coastal Maine island full of sad memories to a mansion on a small, neighboring island where they have school and farm chores. When Gabe and his dog, Mud, find Relle Douglas alone in the woods on the mainland, they take the strange new girl across the channel to live with them.
Relle changes the island with her hopeful attitude. She tells big stories and makes plans for activities like talent shows. Despite a growing crush, Gabe doesn’t quite understand the point of it all; why have a talent show at the end of the world? But when tragedy strikes, Gabe sets out on a dangerous journey to try and find other survivors where the world might be normal. Like Before. —Synopsis provided by Amulet Books
Gabe in the After is set after COVID-19. And the global pandemic in this book moves faster and is devastating. The book doesn’t focus too much on the physical suffering — in part because the illness moves so fast, people are gone in less than a week — rather it explores the emotional aftermath.
At the center of the story is Gabe, a teenager who was only 12 when he moved to the island. Now, he’s more adult than child. Sure, he still participates in school, and obeys Silvia, the sort of parent of the group. But he’s also working as the island’s doctor of sorts and has worries beyond that of a normal teenager.
Relle’s appearance ushers in Gabe’s first full-on crush. Author Shannon Doleski perfectly captures the confusion and joy and rush of emotion. It’s innocent and lovely and many youths will immediately relate.
Doleki finished writing Gabe in the After in March 2020. By the time the book went into edits, the US had been experiencing COVID-19 for more than a year. That changed details in the book, Doleski explains in her author’s note. But it also brought clearer parallels between real life and the book:
“New experiences don’t take away from our losses, but they give us hope,” Doleski says. “My wish for you, reader, is to experience hope — that beautiful, powerful thing — amid all the tragedy.”
Gabe in the After is a fast-moving, emotional read that perfectly marries harsh realities with beauty found in everyday moments.
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