42 pages 1 hour read

Jordan Sonnenblick

After Ever After

Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 2010

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.

Summary and Study Guide


After Ever After is a young adult novel written by American author Jordan Sonnenblick and published in 2010. It is the sequel to Sonnenblick’s debut novel, Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie, which came out in 2004 but focused on a different protagonist. While the first book revolves around Steven Alper, After Ever After explores his younger brother Jeff’s perspective as he navigates eighth grade alongside his best friend, Tad, and his girlfriend, Lindsey. Sonnenblick, who worked as a middle-grade English teacher, was inspired to write Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie after learning that the brother of one of his students had been diagnosed with cancer. By contrast, After Ever After explores Jeff’s perspective as a cancer survivor. The novel delves into The Aftereffects of Cancer Treatment, The Impact of Life-Threatening Illness on Family Dynamics, and Dealing with Loss and Grief. This guide refers to the 2012 Kindle edition of the book.

Content Warning: The novel deals with themes of cancer and death. One character uses ableist slurs.

Plot Summary

Jeffrey Alper is a 13-year-old boy who lives in New Jersey. He has been in remission from acute lymphocytic lymphoma for over five years, but his prior cancer treatments have impacted his health and social life. This leaves Jeff feeling abandoned. When the novel starts, Jeff is about to graduate eighth grade, which he says has been eventful.

The narrative then jumps back to Jeff’s first day of eighth grade. His brother, Steven, has just dropped out of college and moved to Africa, where he intends to find his purpose in life. Jeff runs into a new student named Lindsey and immediately develops a crush on her. She quickly befriends him and his best friend, Tad, who encourages his friend to ask her out. The students are then warned that they will need to pass newly-instated standardized tests at the end of the year in order to graduate. Jeff, whose cancer treatments have left him with neurological issues, is worried that he will be unable to pass the math test. He chooses not to tell his parents about the upcoming test to avoid being pressured to perform well. He instead makes a pact with Tad, who is also a cancer survivor: Tad will tutor Jeff in math, and in return, Jeff will help Tad work out so he can walk across the stage at graduation (Tad has developed physical disabilities because of his own treatments and generally prefers to use a wheelchair).

Jeff’s parents eventually find out about the test and are upset about both his lies as well as at the inherently unfair testing system. Jeff’s father wants his son to take the tests unaided and prove himself, whereas his mother wants him to receive accommodations. Jeff feels unsupported, particularly given his brother’s absence. Jeff is further upset when he learns that Tad has relapsed and is undergoing cancer treatment for the third time. Moreover, Lindsey decides to temporarily break up with him so he can focus on his academic work.

Jeff and Tad continue to study and train together until the day of the tests arrives. Jeff is surprised to learn that Tad and Lindsey have secretly organized a walkout; they lead all the eighth graders to leave the school in the middle of a test to protest the system’s unfairness. Local media and academic authorities are alerted, which eventually leads to an investigation into the testing methods. In the end, the tests are declared void, and Jeff is able to go to high school.

Meanwhile, Tad tells Jeff that his upcoming bone marrow transplant will take place at the same time as graduation, so he will be unable to walk across the stage as planned. Jeff is initially heartbroken, but he then decides to dedicate his yearly bike-a-thon to his friend. However, on the day of the bike-a-thon, Jeff learns that Tad has died from complications after his surgery. Grieving and reflecting on the meaning of life, Jeff walks the stage in Tad’s honor. His brother has come home after realizing that he needs to be with his loved ones, and Lindsey is back to being Jeff’s girlfriend. The novel ends as Jeff and Lindsey visit Tad’s grave and get ready to start high school together.