Book Review: After

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After

Amy Efaw

Viking Juvenile

350 pages

There is approximately one baby per day thrown in the trash in the US ; a staggering and heartbreaking statistic.  Obviously the majority of babies are never discovered, but instead are forever interred in our local landfills.

This infanticide epidemic grabbed the attention of Amy Efaw, who decided to explore this social issue to discover what would lead a girl or woman to treat their own babies in such a horrible manner.  The result of her exploration is the book After.

Devon Davenport is a sixteen year-old, straight A soccer player who lives with her single mother Jennifer.  After begins one morning when Jennifer arrives home from working the graveyard shift to discover that Devon is not in school.  Jennifer assumes Devon is sick—she doesn’t discover the truth until a few minutes later when two police officers enter the home.  Jennifer, in an attempt to convince Devon to sit up on the couch and talk to the AmyEfawofficers, lifts a blanket off of Devon’s lap, and the extent of the situation is exposed; Devon is covered in blood.

From that point on, After follows Devon as she meets her attorney, Dominique Barcellona (“Dom”) and is incarcerated in the local juvenile detention center.  Not only must Devon face serious criminal charges, but morally she must discover why she has done what she has done.

I would have imagined that a character like Devon , someone who killed her own child, would be pretty impossible to empathize with.  She stuffed her newborn daughter in a trash bag, along with dirty tampons and empty orange juice bottles, after all—what is there to empathize with?  But as the story unfolds and Devon begins to piece together what transpired and her reactions, it becomes impossible not to feel for her.  She is not a cold blooded killer—in fact, she is a normal teenage girl.

I am pretty new to YA fiction, but there is a misconception that most of it is tripe.  Generally, that isn’t true, but I will admit for the first fifty pages or so of After, I was convinced that Efaw took a serious subject matter and dumbed it down.  Luckily, I was dead wrong—After was one of the most poignant books I’ve read in awhile and it changed my perception of society a bit.  I can say that I will never read an article in the newspaper about a similar situation and automatically begin judging the mother as an evil person.  Devon ’s story resonated with me so much and although it’s not factual, I believe that there is a lot more to these stories than girls just dumping their babies in the trash.

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8 Responses

  1. This is one of the best books I’ve read all year, and I loved that cover, with the contrast of the reflection! My review is here: http://zenleaf.blogspot.com/2009/08/after-by-amy-efaw.html

    I’m glad you ended up liking it.

  2. I had to look twice too. Poor girl. :-/ Poor child too.

  3. OH MY — I have never heard of this book before but I do believe that this happens far more often than I care to know. While this would be an incredibly difficult book to read, I think I would like to see how the author portrays this complex teenager in a way that we can truly empathize with all she is going through.

  4. I read an interview where Efaw mentions that one of her motivations to write this book was a quote by Amy Goodman: “Go to where the silence is and say something.” I don’t exactly know who Amy Goodman is, and I haven’t read After, but I thought those were powerful words.

  5. I agree with Charley on Goodman’s words being powerful. This hardly sounds like tripe, but like it is definitely worth a read.

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