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In Jordan Sonnenblick's young reader's novel After Ever After, protagonist Jeffery Alper starts out in the fourth grade feeling uncomfortable because he is a cancer survivor, and every kid in his class has been to a fundraiser in his honor during his illness. As he phrases it, "There isn't a kid in the grade who hasn't ... bought a Save Jeffrey T-shirt" (p. 1). Then comes the day that the new kid named Thaddeus Isben--bald, with a scarred head, and definite limp--walks into the classroom, the day Jeffrey describes as meeting his best friend.
The novel then fast forwards to Jeffrey's early teen years. Jeffrey and Tad both have their share of physical and educational challenges to overcome in middle school as a result of their cancer treatments: Tad must use a wheelchair; both must use laptops in class because both have impaired handwriting abilities; and Jeffery can't understand math due to brain damage. To make matters worse, Jeffery doesn't have his older brother Steven to lean on because Steven has quit school, left for Africa to become an African drummer, and "find himself" (p. 37). As Jeffrey phrases it, "My hero woke up one day and quit the world" (p. 37).
On the upside, at the start of middle school, Jeffrey meets and soon begins dating Lindsey. On the down side, he soon learns that every student in the eighth grade must pass a standardized test to be able to graduate to ninth grade. Meanwhile, Tad desires to be able to walk again, especially walk on eight grade graduation day. So, the two orchestrate a plan that Tad will tutor Jeffrey in math while Jeffrey helps Tad exercise. While tutoring is taking place, Jeffrey's mom also battles with the school board to have Jeffrey considered exempt from the test. When that fails, Tad orchestrates a protest, and on the day of the test, having gained enough strength, walks out of the test, trailed by every single student. The protest is caught on the news and raises questions about the benefit of standardized tests.
Time passes, and Tad's cancer relapses. Jeffrey then organizes a bike-a-thon to raise money for Tad's cancer research. However, during the bike-a-thon, Tad goes into liver failure and does not recover. At the end of the novel, Jeffrey accepts high school diplomas for both himself and Tad. Jeffrey goes to visit his best friend again at his tombstone and walks off hand in hand with Lindsey, feeling strong.
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