Before, After, and Somebody in Between

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Overview

My sympathy fades as Chardonnay twists around to spread her lips in a demented grin. Her long yellow teeth probably haven't seen a toothbrush in months. I take a chance and smile back, and what do I get? A pudgy middle finger jabbed under my nose.

My next thought is: Wow. I may not even survive homeroom.

One hour into her first day of tenth grade, Martha Kowalski knows she's really in trouble. The school bully, Chardonnay, has already ...

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Before, After, and Somebody In Between

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Overview

My sympathy fades as Chardonnay twists around to spread her lips in a demented grin. Her long yellow teeth probably haven't seen a toothbrush in months. I take a chance and smile back, and what do I get? A pudgy middle finger jabbed under my nose.

My next thought is: Wow. I may not even survive homeroom.

One hour into her first day of tenth grade, Martha Kowalski knows she's really in trouble. The school bully, Chardonnay, has already threatened her life—and at home, things are even worse. Martha's mom, fresh out of rehab, is shacking up with an obnoxious jerk in a neighborhood that can only be described as a "ghetto."

More than anything she's ever wanted, Martha wants to play the cello. But even music becomes dangerous to her health—because nothing is what it seems in this place. With her mother's willpower dissolving, Martha watches helplessly as her own dreams slip further away.

But in an exhilarating twist that would stun even Cinderella, everything changes. A wealthy lawyer invites her into his family's home and Martha is given a chance to start over. The warm, caring Brinkmans treat Martha like one of the family and even though it feels so right, she knows they can't be as perfect as they seem. And she knows that this fairy tale can't last forever…

An unforgettable debut, Before, After and Somebody in Between is smart, poignant, and very real.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
From Kirkus ReviewsThis gritty story has great appeal. —Kirkus Reviews
VOYA - C. J. Bott
Martha's alcoholic mother is sometimes sober and sometimes drunk. Her father was murdered in prison. Her mother's rehab boyfriend takes his belt to her. When her mother is drinking again, she kicks Martha's thirteen-year-old behind out of the house, the same night that a drive-by shooting kills the baby upstairs, whom Martha had been holding just hours earlier. And at school, Chardonnay is waiting to take her out. Martha Kowalski has a miserable life, and there truly is no one to help her. The first half of the book is so packed with tension that this reviewer thought that Chris Crutcher must be Garsee's writing role model. But the story turns into an over-the-top fairy tale for fifty pages before it bottoms out again, and Garsee resurrects Martha's anguish by reminding readers that there is deep misery even in the fairy-tale rich suburbs. But most of all, this book is Martha's journey home-not to the places she lived, but her journey home to herself. Garsee, an inner-city nurse, knows about what she is writing and she leaves out nothing. Her work is painfully realistic, and she does not write "nice" because there are too many youth who struggle through such an existence. There is no mercy in their lives, and there is not much in Garsee's tribute to them either.
Children's Literature - Keri Collins
It is the eleventh place they have lived in six years, when Martha and Momma move in with Wayne, the new boyfriend Momma discovered in rehab. A sophomore at fourteen due to her intelligence, Martha has only attended rural schools and, in spite of her mother's history of chemical dependence and depression, Martha's first day at Jefferson High proves she is completely unprepared for the hostility, violence, and gritty reality of life for a white girl in Cleveland's impoverished inner city. Threatened constantly at school and at home, Martha has no respite until a calamitous series of events culminates in a wealthy lawyer's family taking her in. While she no longer has to fear physical abuse, hunger, or gang-related violence, Martha encounters a different set of problems as she masquerades as Gina, a persona she creates to keep the ugly truth of her past from her new-found upper class friends. Throughout her harrowing struggles, Martha/Gina turns to music and her desire to play the cello for solace. Jeannine Garsee, a registered nurse in an inner city hospital, tells this disturbing-yet-poignant tale of overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles with a clear voice and authenticity. An imperfect heroine who is forced to deal with harsh circumstances, Martha learns many difficult lessons about dealing with people and the importance of honesty, friendship, and perseverance. Edgy, with realistically frank language, this dark young adult novel addresses drug and alcohol abuse, sex, violence, poverty, and urban life without sensationalism or rationalization and is sure to provoke discussion and increased awareness of what many teens face daily.
Kirkus Reviews
Martha has spent 14 years following her alcoholic mom through one short-term job/house/relationship after another. The latest variation involves the Cleveland slums and abusive "Wa-ayne." Despite this, Martha befriends neighbor Jerome and finds solace in playing her cello. But when Jerome's cousin steals Martha's cello, she steals his drug money-and the ensuing violence kills Jerome's infant brother. Wracked by guilt, Martha feels completely lost when her mother overdoses. Enter a fairy-tale savior-a lawyer seeking atonement for his troubled past, who invites Martha into his wealthy, seemingly perfect family, where she reinvents herself as glamorous Gina. Living a lie backfires, and when Martha ends up back with her mother (whose sobriety doesn't last), she resents losing the good life. She dabbles in drugs, alcohol and sex and alienates everyone who cares about her, then experiences a rapid epiphany and turnaround. Thefirst-person narrative often tells rather than shows, and Martha's accounting of her atrocious behavior without comprehension of her own culpability frequently renders her unsympathetic. Despite these flaws, though, this gritty story has great appeal. (Fiction. YA)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781599900223
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 6/28/2007
  • Pages: 352
  • Age range: 14 - 18 Years
  • Product dimensions: 6.02 (w) x 8.18 (h) x 1.18 (d)

Meet the Author

Jeannine Garsee began writing even before she learned to read, drawing pictures in sequence until they told a story. Once she learned to write, she began to add captions, and then eventually gave it up when she received a typewriter for her thirteenth birthday.

An avid people-watcher, Garsee says she gets her ideas everywhere. About her writing, she says, "Everthing and everyone around me has the potential to become part of the story.

Her work as a nurse gave her much of the inspiration for the character of Martha. She says that she often deals with people in desperate situations, and wonders what chance their children have of ever leading happy, productive lives. She lives outside of Cleveland, Ohio, with her husband, two teenagers, and a fifteen year-old tabby cat named Max.

Visit the author at www.jeanninegarsee.com

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 9 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 26, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Dena Landon for TeensReadToo.com

    When Martha's mom gets out of rehab and drags Martha to live with her latest boyfriend it's nothing new. Ever since her father's death, Martha's life has been a string of moving from place to place, constantly watching out for her mom. But this time the new boyfriend lives in a part of town where 'white girls don't belong,' as her classmates at school have no problem telling her. Martha is plunged into a world of gang violence and drugs, metal detectors at school, threats from other students, and violence at home. But she still manages to make a few friends at school and with the family that lives upstairs. And when she signs up for orchestra and discovers the joy of playing the cello, she thinks things might have finally turned around. <BR/><BR/>Until an act of violence sends everything spiraling out of control. <BR/><BR/>BEFORE, AFTER, AND SOMEBODY IN BETWEEN is a gritty and realistic tale of a girl trying to escape her parent's poor choices and make a life for herself. Told unflinchingly in the first person, Garsee doesn't hesitate from portraying teen violence, sex, and drug and alcohol use as the traps that they can be, but she does so with gentle humor and a compassionate eye. Martha is a flawed heroine, coming to terms with her own faults and the addictive tendencies she may have inherited from her mother, but readers will root for her to succeed. This book is not a light-hearted tale, and at times the string of bad events can feel unrelenting, but Garsee shows the bright spots to be found in even the deepest tragedies. <BR/><BR/>Recommended for older readers only. Contains drug and alcohol use, sex, and profanity.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2013

    Wasnt my favorite

    I dont know, it was just way too depressing. Nothing got better for the main character, in fact it just got worse. My favorite character turned out to be a real jerk, the mother never got nicer, and it really made me depressed.
    And i know that most books make life sound a lot better than it really is, but this was just taking it too far.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 2, 2012

    Great book

    This was a great book. I read it in seventh grade (not FOR seventh grade!) and liked it alot. But it was pretty sexually explicit. I didnt mind that, but still. I like to read books like that. I dont care if theres sex or swearin or drugs. Wgaf?

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2009

    Don't Bother

    I regret picking up this book. The main character did not grow throughout the story at all. In the beginning all Martha worried about was materialistic things and becoming someone else. She gets two these things: A new identity, a new life. But while living her new life she tries to block out the people who really ever cared for her. Martha ignores them when they need her most. Throughout the book Martha acts selfishly again and again and to the very last page I felt like she hadn't matured at all. It was a very dissapointing read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2008

    A reviewer

    i thought this book was amazing and how she survived it all and everything she went through i really hope anyone to read this book enjoys it as much as i did

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 19, 2011

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    Posted January 19, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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