He felt her skin against his, and for a moment he couldn't breathe. He needed to say Hello or How are you? He would need to shake the hand of her date, and introduce her to Kathleen. He had to find out if she was well and happy. If she had recovered from what happened, both to them and to her. And he had to do it without ever knowing how desperately he needed the answer. But she seemed to know everything already, as her eyes remained on his. It made sense that she would know more than he did, for the detail that made his and Maia Morland's love story different was that Leigh was forever a few pages behind in the plot.
-After the Moment by Garret Freymann-Weyr
Maia Morland is pretty, only not pretty-pretty. She's smart. She's brave. She's also a self-proclaimed train wreck.
Leigh Hunter is smart, popular, and extremely polite. He's also completely and forever in love with Maia Moreland.
Their young love starts off like a romance novel - full of hope, strength, and passion. But love is not a romance novel and theirs will never become a true romance. For when Maia needs him the most, Leigh betrays both her trust and her love.
Told with compassion and true understanding, After the Moment is about what happens when a young man discovers that sometimes love fails us, and that quite often, we fail love.
The book opens at a dinner party in New York City, when Leigh sees Maia Moreland for the first time since high school. We're immediately aware of her impact on him and that he's never gotten over some event in their past where he did something dreadful. We don't know their history, only that there was something beautiful and fragile that was destroyed somehow and that Leigh has carried this with him for years.
After reading the opening pages of their chance encounter at the NY dinner party, I was pushed so off-center that I put the book down for weeks. I didn't want to read about the violence or how Leigh hurt Maia so badly and was still so affected by their past. I won't go into details - you deserve to read the book without any spoilers - and to enjoy it as the story slowly unfolds.
Here is just a quick peek into the plot and characters:
After the brief scene where Leigh and Maia meet in the present, the main story opens in flashbacks to Leigh's last years in high school. Towards the end of his junior year, seventeen-year-old Leigh has everything going for him - excellent grades, a spot on the soccer team, and Astra, his dropdead beautiful, popular and smart girlfriend that most everyone else wants to date. He's not unappreciative of his life even though "the good fortune that Leigh knew as his wasn't something that he could feel or point to...It was more like oxygen or blood; it was that intrinsic." Leigh knows that he doesn't yet know what future he wants but he's steady and dependable and he does his level best, knowing it's "a matter of continuing to do the right things: study and apply to colleges, as well as keep old friends and make new ones." Though Leigh isn't driven by clear plans for his future, he will do almost anything for his younger step sister Millie. So when Millie's father dies and she asks Leigh to move to Maryland for a year, Leigh uproots his life. He leaves New York, his mother and Astra for Maryland, Millie, and her troubled friend Maia. Maia is the polar opposite of Astra - nervous, eating disordered, and troubled - but somehow Leigh finds himself drawn to her.
Once I got over my initial hesitation and returned to the book, got to know Leigh and how he cared for the people around him, I was hooked. In After the Moment, Garret Freymann-Weyr created unforgettable characters dealing with complex and real life concerns. It's a beautiful and moving book.
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children; 1 edition (May 18, 2009), 336 pages.
Review copy provided by the author and TLC Book Tours.
About the Author:
Garret Freymann-Weyr was born and raised in New York City. She went to college in North Carolina (UNC-Chapel Hill) and has an MFA in film from NYU. She currently lives outside of Washington D.C. with her husband. She has written five books for young adults, one of which one a Printz honor. Hew work has been sold to countries including the Netherlands, Germany, Japan, and China. Her next book, French Ducks in Venice, is a picture book for a younger audience. Learn more at Garret Freymann-Weyr's website at http://www.freymann-weyr.com/index.html
Thanks so much to Garret Freyman-Weyr, Trish and TLC Book Tours for this review opportunity!