Leigh Hunter is a genuinely nice kid, sixteen years old and just finishing up his junior year in high school in New York City. He lives with his mom, a romance author, and visits his dad, step-mother, and step-sister in Maryland on weekends. He loves soccer, he is dating one of the most desired girls in school, and he's on the path to adulthood.
He begins to get lost the day he learns that Seth Davis died in a car accident. All Leigh can think of his how Millie, his step-sister, is now a half of an orphan and how much he loves her and wants to help. Although it wasn't in his plan, Leigh agrees to spend his senior year living with his father's family so he can act as support for his sister. As it turns out, Leigh begins to stray off the map when he gets to know Maia Morland, a troubled girl who has befriended Millie.
After the Moment is a young adult novel that examines what happens when a fairly normal boy meets a far-from-normal girl. Despite dealing with two families, two girlfriends, and two homes, Leigh's only real problem is that he suffers from the wounded bird syndrome. He sees that someone needs help, and he tries to provide that help, even when he doesn't fully understand what the problem is or how to make it better. He is driven by the need to be the exact opposite of his emotionally crippled father.
Maia, on the other hand, loves only her imprisoned step-father and maybe Millie. She has grave problems, including anorexia, but Leigh is sure he can help her recover. One day Leigh goes too far in playing the knight in shining armor, and his life is forever altered.
Although Garret Freymann-Weyer is certainly a fine writer--a winner of a Printz Honor--the novel failed to make a strong emotional connection. One of the problems was that there was nothing new here. It seems that every young adult novel involves a teenage girl who has a psychological disorder that manifests itself physically (anorexia, cutting, promiscuity) and a nice but generally clueless boy tries to help her, doesn't realize he should help her, or really does help her.
The other problem is that After the Moment seems to drift, bringing up a number of interesting issues but focusing on none. There are no real lessons to be learned, no larger questions to ponder. This is a book that is easy to read and only mildly troubling because it just touches the surface of larger concerns. Perhaps another problem is that several young adult novels published earlier this year do a excellent job of engaging the reader and of deeply, and sometimes disturbingly, exploring the issues brought up in After the Moment.
Here is video of Freymann-Weyr discussing the novel.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009
Source: Review, TLC tours (see review policy)