Taylor Before and After

Imprint. Feb. 2020. 320p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781250171870.
Gr 4 Up–A story is told in journal entries that flash forward and back in time involving an unnamed tragedy. Taylor lives in Oahu. Transplanted from Oregon three years earlier thanks to her father’s new job teaching at a college, Taylor’s family has not found the move easy. Her mother, who experiences depressive episodes, now does not get out of bed. Taylor’s brother, Eli, and her emotionally distant father are in conflict. Eli has discovered surfing and cuts class in order to find the perfect wave. Taylor has had trouble fitting in, but is happy when the seventh grade alpha female grants her entry into her circle of friends. The disjointed narrative in this compelling debut shifts between “before” to “after,” and is appropriately disorienting. Readers slowly piece together what Taylor herself is barely able to articulate. Her dysfunctional home situation leaves Taylor with no mooring. Both parents are emotionally unavailable and her beloved brother has betrayed her. Taylor herself can’t help but be affected by the fallout and makes some poor decisions. But she is resilient and introspective.
VERDICT Readers will root for Taylor as they read her honest musings. Mild swearing and the sophisticated structure of this fascinating coming-of-age story make this better suited for a thoughtful upper middle grade reader.

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