This is quite possibly one of the best stories I’ve ever read. A story about two people who really shouldn’t be together. A story about two people who have traveled different paths, yet ended up at the same place. One’s path a little more rugged, a little more painful, a little more devastating. The the other’s a little more optimistic, a little more green, a little more forgiving.
I’ve generally been against relationships between students and teachers, particularly ones in which the student is still in their teens. There are a multitude of incongruities that will never allow for true equity and that bothers me. But, in the foreword, Kay Simone asked her readers to suspend reality for a bit. One of the things that she asked us to suspend reality for is that people don’t wear condoms in the story. I thought it was funny that she would ask that, but it’s okay, you know, I’m glad that she set it up that way. So I extended that a little further with the whole teacher-student thing and I’m glad I did.
I’m so pleased with The Aftermath. There was still something like a membrane of sadness surrounding everything because I can’t exactly push away the teacher-student dynamic, but Simone did illustrate wonderfully the imbalance of two people at different points in their life. One, Daniel; the student, is approaching a threshold of monumental importance, the first pivotal point in his life. And the other, Will; the teacher, he’s lived a few lives at this point, so he’s had several decisive moments already–their interactions are most often guided by these differences. And it’s done so well, showing that these things can be forgotten when your heart’s involved, when passion and excitement and love sometimes gets in the way of truth and reality. I liked the way she exposed the struggle, the pleasure, the optimism, and the fear in everything they did.
More importantly, though, is that Simone also showed that they were equals. Equals in the sense that neither of them were better off than the other. There is the difference in age, position, and experience, but both, through observation and explicit demonstration, they learned from and taught each other. They were whole people before they met, but what they had to offer each other expanded on their sense of wholeness, exposed them to sides of themselves buried or yet to be discovered. It kind of has me in awe.
What I just stated is true, but it kind of goes against something I feel strongly about in regards to Simone’s storytelling, which I won’t get into here. But that post will come soon, because it’s about 90% complete.
Anyway, the sex scenes were really good. Not crazy passionate, just amazing. Some scenes were pages long, but it was very intimate–the kind of scene that I would like to write, but probably don’t have the patience for, which is why I generally stay away from writing sex scenes altogether. But if I could manage to focus on it that long, it would probably turn out to be something like the ones in this book.
I think, if anything, what I didn’t like about the story or what I thought was not handled well was Will’s drinking. I did appreciate that he, even if somewhat jokingly, considered himself an alcoholic. I did not, however, appreciate the way his friend and fellow teacher, Mark, dismissed it. I didn’t like the way people relied on alcohol so much in the story. Not all of them, really–though it showed up a lot–it was just Will who seemed unable to take to life without a bottle. In the first story I read by her, One Giant Leap, one of the main characters also took to the drink a lot and it’s never really fully addressed. And I suppose, for this story, it may be one of the things that needed to be suspended, but that, I think, is even harder for me to push away than the teacher-student relationship. But really, aside from those two things, this story was spectacular.