Us in the Before and After by Jenny Valentine

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Us in the Before and After by Jenny Valentine

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Category: Teens
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: Young adult fiction at its best - high drama, turbulent emotion, and a beautiful friendship. I really didn't want to put this one down.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: June 2024
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's UK
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781471196584

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Elk and Mab are best friends, or more than that even, their friendship is a once in a lifetime connection. They meet as children one day on a trip out but unfortunately they don't get each other's contact details at the time. But then chance brings them back together, and they are inseparable. Something has happened though, something terrible and tragic, and now they must work through their grief, and their friendship, together.

At the start I did feel myself floundering slightly with what was going on in this book, but I quickly found my feet in this intense, emotional, heart-breaking read. I like a good friendship story, and this one definitely hits the spot. I quickly forgave the characters for having slightly strange names, because I was drawn to both of them immediately, and I just wanted to tag along with them for a while, and learn their history. They come alive so quickly in your mind as you read, and the story moves along at a great pace, with the emotion ramping up with each page you turn.

As well as being a beautiful story about friendship, it is also a book about families, about love, and about grief. Elk's relationship with her grandmother is also very special (she sounds like a brilliant grandmother), and I also really loved how Elk behaves with her little brother, Knox. And then there is France, Mab's brother, who slowly creeps more and more into the story. Each character jumps up off the page, very much alive, and you feel you're a part of Elk's world. It's very well written, and is an interesting observation of grief and how we cope, or don't cope, with the loss of someone we love.

It's also a story about those first flushes of romance as a teenager, where second glances are imbued with a thousand meanings and everything is tentative and exciting. Seeing the different characters dealing with the emotions of a budding romance is also realistic, and moving. You feel as if you're living every emotion alongside of Elk, and I liked Elk very much as a character with her interest in physics and her preferences to stay at home rather than to go out to parties. A lot of the story is dialogue between Elk and Mab, making it feel very immediate and fully immersing you in their friendship. It's no wonder it's emotional, since you're right there with them through the book.

There is a moment where I just gasped and closed the book, and I can't even talk about it here because it will ruin the story. But you'll know when you get there. You know it's a good book when it's making you feel so much! When I'd finished, I almost started to re-read it immediately. It isn't a long story, and somehow I felt like I wasn't quite ready to let everyone go yet. This is a deftly written story, and definitely recommended.

The Bookbag also loved Jenny's novel Finding Violet Park. You might also enjoy reading The Fault in Our Stars by John Green or Before I Die by Jenny Downham.

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Buy Us in the Before and After by Jenny Valentine at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Us in the Before and After by Jenny Valentine at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.

Buy Us in the Before and After by Jenny Valentine at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Us in the Before and After by Jenny Valentine at


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