After is written by Amy Efaw. It was published in 2009 by Viking. Efaw’s blog on Goodreads can be found here.
Genre: Tough Read, Realistic, Young Adult
“Who would leave her own baby in the trash to die? Certainly not someone like Devon—straight-A student, soccer player with Olympic dreams, more mature than her own mother. But desperation and panic drove her to do what most people can’t even imagine. Now Devon’s in a juvenile detention center, charged with attempted murder. If she’s tried as an adult, she faces life in prison.
Does Devon deserve that punishment? Your answer depends on whether you believe her story—that she didn’t even know she was pregnant. Was she buried in a denial so deep that she was unable to register the seemingly obvious signs of pregnancy? Or were her actions the result of a more devious, premeditated plan?”
The woman’s eyes are locked with Devon’s. “Your charges,” she says again. “Attempted Murder in the First Degree.”
Devon feels her thighs tighten, quiver. Somehow she had managed to avoid hearing any of this in the courtroom.
“Abandonment of a Dependent Person in the Second Degree.” She pauses, gauging Devon’s reaction. “Criminal Mistreatment in the Second Degree, and Assault in the Third Degree. That makes four charges, total.”
Murder? Murder? And there were others, too. Abandonment. Mistreatment. Assault. A whole horrible list. This is what they think she’s done?
But how? How did she do these things? She can’t remember any of it.
“These are steps, Devon! When you have steps, you have a plan. When you have a plan, you have what’s called premeditation. Premeditation points to guilt. And guilt equals going to jail. For a long, long time.” Dom pulls her finger away from Devon’s chin and takes a step back. “That, right there, will be the prosecutor’s argument.” Dom crosses her arms. “And right now, even I’m buying it.”
Devon’s head drops. She wraps her arms around herself tight, trying to control her shaking. Her breaths come rapid and ragged. “I didn’t know any of that, Dom. I swear. I didn’t know I was pregnant.”
Dom throws her hands up. “When, Devon? When didn’t you know you were pregnant? During the appointment? Because—”
Warnings: Graphic descriptions
Recommended Age Range: 16+
What I Liked:
Spoilers for the ending.
I was expecting to really dislike this book when I read the summary. But Efaw handled this issue really well and I was impressed. She didn’t try to excuse or hide things away or beat around the bush; she dealt with the topic starkly, and realistically, and refreshingly. Having the plot of the book center around a court case was a great idea, because it showed both sides of the situation. Often, books misrepresent or simply neglect the other side, but this book dealt with both sides, and did it well.
Great issues dealt with in After: the consequences of your actions; responsibility for your actions (and the consequences); meaning and intent; right and wrong; dependability; and acceptance. And Efaw handled all of these brilliantly. The ending, in particular, was fantastic. It was wonderful. It made me feel relieved, and glad, and that might seem strange to those who know what happens in the end. But Devon’s words, “I want to plead Guilty because…I am guilty” are fantastic. It’s Devon accepting responsibility and the consequences for her actions, even if she wasn’t in her right mind when she did those actions. Devon realizes that, despite the denial, she did throw her baby away, and nothing could change that. It wasn’t premeditation and it wasn’t malicious, but she still did it. And she realizes that she needs to accept the consequences. And think of me however you want, but I think that is a fantastic ending, and a truthful one.
What I Didn’t Like:
Third person present tense is really hard to get into. I don’t mind first person present tense, because it’s done so much in YA these days, but third person? Yikes.
I wish there had been more resolution with Connor. A brief mention by Dom of having spoken with him, or something. Actually, I wish there had been more resolution with all of Devon’s friends and family.
Despite thinking I would hate it, After impressed me. The ending, in particular, was one of the best endings I’ve ever read because there were no excuses. It was stark, sad, and utterly refreshing. This is a book I would recommend to friends because it is thought-provoking, and an excellent candidate for discussion.
You can buy this book here: After
Coming Up Next: Series Week V!!! I’m going to keep the series a secret, but expect it up Thanksgiving week (that’s next week!). After that, it will be Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, possibly my absolute favorite fantasy novel (and author).