Writing a story featuring a protagonist that readers might find hard to sympathize with maybe be rewarding eventually, but it is certainly difficult. Attempting to unravel the complicated minds of a teen girl who has committed an atrocious act is even more challenging. I’m not sure how successful I thought Efaw’s attempt at this goal was, but I appreciated her effort nonetheless.
As I mentioned above, Devon is hard to like. Not just because of the deep denial she’d immersed herself in—a denial so thorough that she nearly killed a helpless baby. She also has a personality that does not easily appeal to people. For instance, in much of the beginning Devon is often listless and unresponsive to others talking to her, to the point where I wanted to reach into the story and shake her, hard, by the shoulders. Even as we continue to see different aspects of her, we find that she is intense, driven, and quiet, leaning towards the loner side. Devon is exactly the kind of person I’d always wanted to get to know in high school but found it impossible to.
AFTER moves through lengthy and ever-present conversations, encounters, and periods of thoughtfulness. Because so much of the book occurs inside Devon’s head, it’s best for those who are patient enough to reap the rewards of dealing with a difficult, unlikable protagonist. I would almost consider it more an intense character study than a novel. In fact, AFTER often blurs the line between fiction and reality. Naming a great number of her supporting characters after real people who helped her in her research, the disarming accuracy of details such as locations and statistics… these and more contribute to the uncomfortable feeling you might get while working your way through this book. AFTER is not afraid to shake you up and make you wonder about the effects of fiction on reality, and vice versa.
AFTER is a difficult but moving read, and a great choice for adult readers—especially fans of writers like Jodi Picoult—looking for something they can love in YA fiction.