A gritty but hopeful love story about seizing the present, healing from the past, and embracing the future.
The main character is Tyler Blackwell, a senior in high school. So far, everything is going well for him. He has a football scholarship to Stanford, a hot girlfriend, and an army of friends on his side. Unfortunately, after his mom commits suicide, Tyler lets it all go, his future remaining bleak. Not only is Tyler left to deal with his grief, every day he tries to dodge his drunken father who is verbally and physically abusive. To top it off, his father refuses to support him, financially.
Since he’s in desperate need of money, Tyler takes on a new job at a photography studio, working alongside his former childhood friend, Jordyn, who’s now an angry-loner goth-girl. As they get to know each other more, Tyler is unexpectedly provided reprieve from his chaotic world. Because of it, he realizes he’s also falling for Jordyn. However, when his father’s brutally unpredictable behavior shows more and more, Tyler is afraid that he’ll end up bringing Jordyn into his violent home. But he has to make a choice: will he allow Jordyn to show him the path to a better future, or will he just let his current struggles destroy him?
I’ve read a few YA novels that had some good stories, but Not After Everything was definitely worth the read, in my opinion. During some scenes, I was close to shedding a tear. I shook my head in sympathy and thought about others who really can relate to this story.
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About the author: Michelle Levy is from Denver, Colorado, and now lives in Los Angeles, California, where she works as a casting director for film and television on projects such as Six Feet Under, Deadwood, Bruce Almighty, and more. Not After Everything is her debut novel. For more on the author, click here.
My Q & A with Michelle Levy
- Congratulations on your debut novel, Not After Everything. Was this a project you’ve had in mind for some time? Is the story, including the main character, Tyler Blackwell, based on events you know or know of?
M: Thank you! It actually wasn’t something I had in mind until it came to me. I was in the shower—where we all do our best thinking, right?—when I “heard” some dialog between this very angry golden boy and his former best friend and I just kind of let the characters guide me from there.
- This story was a page-turner for me. In fact, certain scenes had me shaking my head in sympathy. I don’t want to spoil anything for those who’ve not yet read your novel, so I’ll ask about the scenes with Tyler and his father. Were they difficult for you to write?
M: My writing style is sort of like method acting, where I try to really become the character. Those scenes were extremely painful to write. There was crying involved.
- On your website, although you pursued a career in film and television, you’ve expressed your wanting to be a writer. Are there any stories you’ve written in the past? What are your writing interests?
M: I never really admitted, to myself even, that I really wanted to be a writer until after I finished my first manuscript. I was thirty-two. And even then I had a hard time owning that title—writer—until my book sold. It just seemed like something people much smarter than I were. How could I be one? Ah, good old self-doubt.
Not After Everything was my fifth completed manuscript. The other four were paranormal and urban fantasy, which I still really love writing. I’m just such a fan of the what if; I hope to go back to writing that someday. I also really enjoy exploring psychology and psychological disorders.
- Do you have favorite authors who’ve motivated your writing this book?
M: I was probably subconsciously motivated by my favorite book: The Catcher in the Rye. That book just really spoke to me. I remember reading it in ninth grade and thinking this is how I think! This is my inner voice! I don’t know what that says about me. I was also inspired by The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp (I absolutely heart Sutter Keely!), Forgive me Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick, Looking For Alaska by John Green, and Where She Went by Gayle Forman.
- Do you have advice for aspiring writers?
M: Don’t be afraid to write a bad first draft! I’m a fast drafter, and let me tell you, those first drafts aren’t pretty. But my feeling is that if you word vomit the story out, just finish it and get it all on the page, you then have something to mold into a beautiful work of art. The biggest thing I hear from other writers is that they have a hard time finishing anything. I’ll bet it’s because they’re being hard on themselves and editing as they go. Some days you hate your writing and some days you think you’re Shakespeare. If you’re having a hate-your-writing day and get discouraged in the middle of a story, there’s no wonder why you want to put it away. That’s why I word vomit. I don’t give myself a chance to hate my stuff until I’m revising. It’s harder to give up on a finished draft.
- Will there be another novel?
M: Many, I hope! I’m working on another contemporary novel now, but I have no official news to share at the moment. Keep an eye out for updates. Hopefully soon!