By Cynthia Ayala
Cece is devoted to Joan, has been since they were children, being either her chaperone or her partner in crime. But when Joan leaves without a word, leaving Cece heartbroken, Cece is forced to finally become her own person…that is until Joan returns with radical behavior that only escalates. Now Cece has to make a choice, but a life without Joan — can she handle it?
Published on May 17, 2016 by Riverhead Books, The After Party, by Anton DiSclafani, is a historical fiction tale about two girls and their strong friendship that borders on toxic, leaving for somewhat interesting yet disappointing read.
Now, while this novel was somewhat interesting, the biggest problem it had was the direction of where it was going wasn’t defined clear enough. The novel revolves around Cece and her friend Joan and her somewhat slight obsession she has with her friend. The novel chronicles the beginnings of their relationship and highlights just how strong it is. Then there are scenes where the author decided to show Cece as being a little more than protective of her friend going as far as to be jealous of the attention she gives to men. There is this underlying conflict of sexuality within the novel that is unfortunately never explored. Taking place in the 1950’s in Texas of all places, this sort of content would have been something very remarkable for the time, and where it was taking place, but nothing ever comes of it. All that tension just fizzles out very quickly because there is not sense of direction. It is almost as if the author was afraid of “crossing that line” regarding sexuality.
Then Joan is gone, she vanishes without a word giving the protagonist room to grow on her own. Unfortunately, she doesn’t grow that much. Cece is a very lovesick girl who acts like her life is miserable without her friend. She certainly hasn’t had an easy life, but she had friends, especially friends who treated her much better than Joan. Joan is a very unsympathetic character. Joan may have done good things for Cece, but at the end of the day, she mistreats Cece, from before she leaves, to after she comes back. Joan is very dismissive of Cece’s relationship, as if it’s just a fly on the window. It’s unclear whether she may be jealous or envious of Joan’s life, but the way she treats Cece, Cece’s relationships and all her friends, is very crappy. She’s not a good person, she does everything she does because she wants to act out, never grow up, and because she thinks she’s better than everyone else.
What the writer has given the reader is the embodiment of a toxic relationship where Cece is constantly submerged by Joan, and to make matters worse, Cece likes to drown in the shadow of Joan. Because of that, she hardly develops, even in her own relationship, she forgets her husband, forgets everything, to go out and party with Joan. Cece is a very submissive character whole Joan really liked to just be in a place she could complain about while acting like she was so much better. Because of them, and their turbulent and toxic relationship, the novel was static, constantly revolving without growing their relationship, their friendship. There is a lot that was left unsaid and so much more the author could have done to bring about the story of these two girls. But the novel ends very much where is begins, with Cece longing for Joan.
What could have been a remarkable emotional read about the friendship of two girls really needed some strong focus. Well-written yes, but those character dynamics were not. (★★★☆☆ | C)