After the Game was my first Abbi Glines book. It will also be my last. I only spent about six hours with her but we’re already breaking up. I won’t be racing out to listen to more narrations by Charlotte Penfield or Jason Carpenter either – although with the right book I *could* be convinced to give them one more try. Because it’s possible my opinion of the narration hinged more upon the book’s content than I have allowed for.
Two years prior to the book’s beginning, 15-year-old Riley Young was dating Gunner Lawton, a scion of the Lawton family, for whom her hometown in Tennessee is named. One night after a field party, Riley accepted a lift home from Gunner’s older brother, Rhett, as Gunner was drunk. Rhett raped her. After this occurred, nobody except for Riley’s family believed her. Rhett was the star football player, the town’s golden boy. So Riley must be lying, right? Riley and her family were basically driven out of town. As a result of Rhett’s assault, Riley became pregnant. She obviously decided to keep the baby because when After the Game starts, she is back in town with her 15-month-old daughter, Bryony. Riley’s grandmother has Alzheimer’s and Riley (with Bryony) and Riley’s parents have returned to Lawton to look after her.
Riley is finishing high school online and has little contact with wider Lawton; she doesn’t expect the reception she gets will have improved any in the past two years.
Brady Higgins is the current Lawton High School quarterback. He is friends with Gunner (and was friends with Riley back in the day). Brady was one of the group who turned their backs on Riley. However, when Riley comes back to town with a child, he begins to reconsider his beliefs.
That’s obviously a good thing. However, some of the calculus he makes in his reconsideration felt very off to me. For example, he decides that Riley has good character because she didn’t put the child up for adoption or get an abortion. There was no narrative pushback for the idea that a 15-year-old rape survivor may well make the choice to abort a pregnancy or give the child up for adoption without that being, in any way, evidence of a character flaw. It was about this point – and quite early in the book – I became quite stabby and I didn’t ever really get over it.
Brady decides that he believes Riley and tells her he wants to be her friend. Unsurprisingly, she’s not initially receptive. Her mother, however, convinces her (aka insists) she give Brady a chance and when Riley’s grandmother goes missing one morning and Brady helps to locate her, Riley’s resentment crumbles.
Brady has two weeks until the championship game. He’s concerned that if he’s publicly Riley’s friend, that may mess with the team dynamic – Gunner is on the team too, as are many of their friends, all of whom turned their back on Riley two years earlier. So they start to be friends in secret and decide they will go public “after the game”.
Rather than the story actually be about Riley’s recovery from trauma and getting justice, as well as the town taking responsibility for how badly they’d treated her, the novel takes a turn when something happens in Brady’s family which makes it pretty much all about him. Thereafter, Riley is more concerned about how Brady is doing. His overly melodramatic reaction to what was happening made me have his age (17) in the forefront of my mind. Sure, what was happening was upsetting and not easy but it also wasn’t anything like what Riley had gone through, or, even what other friends of his had gone through (I gather these things were ventilated in previous books in the series. Suffice it to say that Lawton is a town where teenagers fare badly.) Because I was so often reminded of Brady’s youth, I found it difficult to believe in any kind of relationship between him and Riley. There was no effort made in the text to develop a relationship between Brady and Bryony. I never believed he was equipped to be a father to her. Sure, he’s only 17 but for it to work, that’s what was needed.
Right near the end, there is some “closure” for Riley from Rhett. I have that word in quotes because I had squint really hard to see it that way. Every time Rhett came up in the story I was all WHY IS HE NOT IN JAIL???! And having finished the book I still don’t have a good answer.
Even though the topics were pretty heavy, the writing style itself was fairly… juvenile. There was no nuance or depth to the story. I was grateful it was only six hours long but even so I struggled to finish.
I didn’t enjoy the narrations either but, to be fair, some of that was no doubt due to the content of the book. Charlotte Penfield’s performance was my least favourite. She had very little expression in her voice – often she sounded quite wooden. I was brought to mind of a child reading a school primer in front of a class in elementary school. This impression was strengthened by the author’s lack of use of contractions. Almost all of the time, “we are” was used instead of “we’re” and “we will” was used instead of “we’ll” (same for “you are” and “you will”). It’s not that there were no contractions used in the book – there were. But when it came to will and are – almost all of the time those words were not shortened. “We will go to the park”. “We are going to the park”. When I was in Grade One our reading primers were about “Dick and Dora”. The sentences were similar: “See Dora run.” “Watch Dora play.”
Jason Carpenter’s performance was less wooden than Ms. Penfield’s but it still lacked depth. His female character voices were barely different than his male character voices. He did make some effort to differentiate between the male friends and the adults however.
Neither Ms. Penfield nor Mr. Carpenter had much to work with character-wise unfortunately. It may be that a more substantial, deeper narrative would have brought out their strengths rather than highlight their weaknesses.
Mr. Carpenter sounded a little like Matthew McConaughey so some listeners may find that a big enough draw to get over the many flaws in After the Game. Just not this listener.
TITLE: After the Game
AUTHOR: Abbi Glines
NARRATED BY: Jason Carpenter and Charlotte Penfield
GENRE: Contemporary Romance - Young Adult
STEAM FACTOR: You can play it out loud
REVIEWER: KaetrinBuy After the Game by Abbi Glines on Amazon EXCERPT: