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“My mom said it wasn’t my time. Like, I was meant to live so that I could do something good. That’s why I’m gonna be a teacher, to do something good in the world,” Luther. –Every Moment After
Every Moment After
by Joseph Moldover
After the gunshots were silenced. After the victims were buried. After the place of terror was torn down. Eleven years after the tragedy, survivors still grapple with the effects. Recent high school graduates Matt and Cole still deal with the guilt and questions. Everywhere they go, there are reminders of those who died. It is impossible for them not to ask, why didn’t I die? How can I move on?
Matt was not at school on the fateful day that his classmates were massacred. The fact that he was spared from witnessing the events has caused guilt to consume him. Matt obsesses over what would have happened if he had been at school that day. Did he cheat death? Was he actually meant to die? Caught in a downward spiral, Matt’s rash actions temp fate to take his life.
Meanwhile, after the shooting, Cole became the face of the tragedy because a photo of him being carried from the scene went viral. Cole would prefer to hide in the shadows, but now everyone recognizes his face. When people ask him about the shooting, Cole cannot give them answers. Even though he survived, he cannot remember what happened that day. On top of his amnesia, Cole is dealing with the recent death of his father and his mother’s depression.
Every Moment After is a gripping story that focuses on the survivors of a mass shooting. The story alternates between Matt’s and Cole’s points of view, which allows readers to feel the emotions of both victims. Written by a clinical psychologist, Every Moment After accurately explores topics of survivor’s guilt, grief, and changing relationships. As the two friends struggle to cope, they learn that “you don’t have to do it all at once. You just have to get through one breath at a time. One moment at a time.” However, both Matt and Cole sometimes find it difficult to move on, even one breath at a time.
In a time where mass shootings frequent the nightly news, Every Moment After explores a topic that many teens may have questions about. Matt and Cole are relatable characters struggling with questions about the past as well as their futures. As the boys take their first steps towards adulthood, their long-term friendship with each other is a crucial component in their journey. The boys’ friendship highlights the importance of having at least one person who has and will always love you, just as you are.
Every Moment After will leave readers thinking about gun control and the effects of mass shootings. It will take readers on an emotional, tearful journey, providing new insight and empathy for anyone who has suffered a great loss. In the end, the story makes it clear that “there are some things you can’t leave behind. They cling to you like cobwebs. They leave you with empty spaces. And the only thing you can do is to keep on going, as well and as gracefully as you can, without your missing parts.”
- Matt trades drugs with a boy. In exchange for the stories, the boy wants Matt to tell him stories about sex. Matt tells the boy about when he had sex with his girlfriend. Matt begins, “The first time, we were at her house. In her, uh, well, in her parents’ bedroom.” The description ends here.
- Cole finds condoms under his father’s bed and wonders who they could belong to. He knows they don’t belong to the nurse because “she was pretty open about liking other girls and telling us all about her girlfriend.”
- Cole uses a pseudonym when he submits poetry to be published. When he tells his friend, she says his pseudonym “sounds like the name of a porn star.”
- Matt and Sarah go to the lake. Sarah “steps toward me, and before I can say anything or move or even take a breath, her lips are on mine. She still tastes like lemonade. . . before I can think of something to say, she kisses me again and pulls my shirt off and reaches for my belt, and by the time she’s pulling the Red Sox shirt off over her head and wriggling out of her shorts, I’m self-conscious that I’ve never been naked before. Even with Rosie, I kept a surprising amount of my clothing on. . .” Matt compares Sarah and Rosie and thinks, “I never wanted Rosie the way I want Sarah now.” Although it is clear that Matt and Sarah have a sexual relationship, the sex is not described. The scene is described over two pages.
- After Matt stays the night at Sarah’s house, “I bend over and kiss one perfect nipple.”
- A girl that Cole likes tells her about a conversation she had with an ex-boyfriend. She says, “It’s just that it’s a bit hard to really be comfortable with someone when they’ve seen you naked, isn’t it?”
- Cole thinks about a girl. “I wonder where her bedroom is. I wonder how I could see her naked.”
- Matt tries to figure out what story to tell about his ex-girlfriend. He thinks, “I mean, I only have so many of them. It’s not like Rosie and I were screwing every single day.”
- Someone asks Cole, “Are you telling me that Matt Simpson is boning the daughter of the cop who’s carrying you in the picture?”
- Matt goes into a bar and yells at an off-duty police officer. Matt says, “You want me to tell you what it’s like with her, Lucas? I know you think about it all the time. Because it’s nuts dude. I’ve seriously got scratch marks all up and down my back. You should fucking hear her. . . She always likes it on the living room floor, Lucas.”
- Cole walks into his house and “the smell of weed overwhelms me.” When he goes into the living room, he sees two people. “One of them is my mother, and the other is a man with longish white hair. She’s leaning back, and he’s sort of half on top of her, kissing her.” When they see Cole, they are upset. The man leaves, while Cole and his mother have a talk.
- Cole kisses the girl he likes. Cole takes “the final step, and before I have time to think about the blood in my mouth or about any of those other reasons that this is an unreasonable thing to do, I kiss her. . . I kiss her with my broken lip, and when I stop and step back, her eyes are closed.”
- When a dog bites Cole, he yells, “Fuck you, you stupid little bastard. Fuuuuuuck you.” Cole is not seriously injured.
- While at the lake, Matt and Cole come across some boys that are shooting garden gnomes. When one boy talks badly about Cole, Matt defends him. “Matt brings his left hand around in a wide, perfect swing. His fist arcs through the air, and in the moment before he strikes Ponytail’s face, I see the kid’s expression: surprise and fear, like a little boy’s. . . And then there’s a smack; I should be able to come up with a better way to describe the sound, but that’s exactly what it is, a loud smack of flesh-on-flesh, of Matt’s fist driving into the side of the guy’s face. . .” Ponytail boy falls down and the fight ends.
- Later in the book, Matt thinks about the fight. “. . . Before I could even realize what I was doing, my hand had come around and made solid contact with Ponytail’s face, dropping him to the ground. I would have kicked him, too. Standing over him, I was lining myself up. I was going to break his fucking ribs. Crack them all. I wanted to kick him in the balls so hard they’d bust.” Matt didn’t do any of these things because Cole stops him.
- When Matt yells at an off-duty police officer, the man hits him. “I’m on the ground before I know it; he drives down and I can feel the floorboards shudder as I hit them. My head snaps back, and there’s a burst of light in front of my eyes. He’s on top of me, his knee grinding into my groin, a flurry of punches to my chest and face.” The fight continues until Matt is knocked out.
- When Cole gives his contact a bag of useless pills, the man hits him. “I never see Eddie’s fist coming; it catches me on my lower lip, and then I’m on my back in the grass, looking up at him, dazed.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- Matt’s parents have a party where wine is served.
- Matt wakes up in his truck hungover, and sees an “empty bottle of vodka is on the floor on the passenger side.”
- Cole talks to a student who “reeks of pot.”
- Someone offers Cole a bottle with vodka in it. Cole declines because “I don’t feel like vodka.”
- Cole and Matt collect prescription pills in order to trade them. Cole collects his dead father’s pills and also fills an outdated prescription. Matt is able to get pills from someone he knows.
- Matt injures his arm during baseball and the doctor gives him a prescription. Instead of taking the pills, he uses them to trade.
- When Matt and Cole give their contact the drugs, there is a prescription for Percocet as well as other “good shit.” Later, Matt gives their contact another bag of pills. The contact gets angry because the drugs are “generic erectile dysfunction drug that was discontinued three years ago because it put people in the hospital with boners that wouldn’t stop.” The other pills in the bag are ibuprofen.
- Cole’s mother is prescribed antidepressants after her husband dies.
- When Matt goes to see a friend, he talks to the father and “can smell the liquor on him now.” Later when Matt goes to pick up the friend, the father’s “eyes are red-rimmed, and I can smell that the drink in the mug isn’t coffee.”
- Cole and Matt drink a couple of beers while they are at the lake. Cole explains, “Dad left lots of beer in the garage. I doubt that Mom even remembers it’s out there, and she definitely has no idea exactly what and how much he had, so I can drink some whenever I want.”
- Matt sneaks into Cole’s garage and gets drunk. When Cole finds him, Matt says, “It is your dad’s beer, Cole, and I apologize for drinking it.”
- Cole has lunch with some people from school. One boy talks about a party where people were drinking and smoking pot.
- Profanity is used excessively and appears on almost every page. Profanity includes bitch, crap, crappy, damn, damnit, fuck, motherfucking, pissed, goddamn, hell, and shit.
- My god, Christ, and Jesus are used as exclamations often.
- A boy flips off a group of reporters.
- When a boy is shooting garden gnomes, he yells “I’m gonna do it this time faggots.”
- When Cole sees an ex-girlfriend, he acknowledges her because “there’s no point in being an asshole.”
- While working on a class project, a girl tells Cole, “Holy fucking Christ, Cole, do I love Eliot.”
- Cole says, “I’m sorry for being a dick.”
- Matt calls someone a dick. Later Matt thinks he is being a “pussy.”
- Someone calls Matt a “cocksucker.”
- Cole thinks that one reason that his mom is having difficulty grieving for his father, is because his parents were atheists. “. . . All of their friends were atheist too. Which is fine, but it’s not very good for dying.”
- After the school shooting, one of the parents would invite the other kids to a birthday party for her dead daughter. “She says something about how Susie was watching from heaven and that Susie loved all of us.” Cole thinks, “no one’s watching anyone from heaven.”
- A girl says her father is “an ardent conservative. He’d say that people will kill each other no matter what; you can’t regulate it away. That Cain killed Abel with a rock.”
- Matt is drunk when Cole finds him. Cole thinks, “I hope to God he was at least a bit sober when he drove here.”