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After the Fire

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The things I’ve seen are burned into me, like scars that refuse to fade.

Father John controls everything inside The Fence. And Father John likes rules. Especially about never talking to Outsiders. Because Father John knows the truth. He knows what is right, and what is wrong. He knows what is coming.

Moonbeam is starting to doubt, though. She’s starting to see the lies behind Father John’s words. She wants him to be found out.

What if the only way out of the darkness is to light a fire?

476 pages, Paperback

First published June 1, 2017

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About the author

Will Hill

33 books551 followers
Before quitting his job in publishing to write full time, Will Hill worked as a bartender, a bookseller and a door-to-door charity worker. He grew up in the north-east of England, is scared of spiders, and lives in east London with his girlfriend. He is a big fan of cats.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,375 reviews
Profile Image for BernLuvsBooks .
685 reviews4,625 followers
March 25, 2019
🏚 An intensely powerful story of survival after life in a cult. 🔥

The story is woven into Before and After the events of the fire that ultimately lead to the death and rescue of various Holy Church of the Lord's Legion cult members. Events are slowly revealed by Moonbeam. She shares what she is able to speak aloud daily in therapy sessions so her story comes out a bit disjointed but the process is authentic and works well within the story.

Moonbeam is a survivor. During her years in the Lord's Legion her father dies, her mother is banished and she is promised to the cult leader as one of his many wives. The stories she shares about her life within the compound are horrific and involve neglect and abuse - sexual, physical and mental. Life within the cult was meant to cut each member down. Members were broken and brainwashed into blindly believing and following the teaching of the cult leader, Father John. It was especially heartbreaking to read about how the women and children were treated.

You can't help but feel intense admiration for Moonbeam. It's difficult to imagine a 17 year old girl having the strength and capacity to question her life and beliefs when she has been programmed to accept them without question since she was a toddler. Will Hill did an amazing job of sharing her inner struggles. Her inner dialogue was crucial to helping us understand how conflicted she was about her life and how much she grows with the help of therapy. Her therapy sessions afford us insight into the life of the cult, its members and of course its leader.

This story was inspired by the real events of David Koresh, the Branch Davidian and the Waco siege in 1993 which is what initially drew me to it. I have always been fascinated by cults. How people so fervently believe in its teaching that they give up their lives, families and worldly possessions. How these horrific men can be seen as Messianic leaders when they are really manipulators, taking advantage of people to satisfy their own desires and achieve their personal agendas. Hill does an amazing job weaving his fictional story with honesty and sensitivity. Moonbeam and her fellow survivors are vulnerable, honest and complicated. I was grateful for the ending. After reading about so much pain and loss, it felt right to close the book with a full and hopeful heart.

Thank you to Will Hill, Sourcebooks Fire and Netgalley for an advance copy of this book.
Profile Image for Debra .
2,132 reviews34.9k followers
October 5, 2018
After The fire is told in alternating timelines from "before the fire" and " after the fire". Moonbeam was a member of the Lord's Legion, which can best be described as a cult. Her parents joined when she was young and living inside the "fence" is all she has ever known. Before the fire, she was taught not trust outsiders and to only trust Father John who receives the word of God and is preparing the "cult" members for the final battle. After the fire, Moonbeam is in a facility where she is meeting with Dr. Hernandez and Agent Carlyle to discuss the events that led up to her being in the hospital. During those meetings, she slowly begins to trust and tells them what life was like in the compound and what happened the day of the fire.

I think it is best to go into this book a little blind. The book gets better and better with each small revelation that Moonbeam makes. If you are not too sure what is going on in the beginning of the book, keep reading. The Author does a wonderful job of showing what life is like inside of a cult. How brainwashing and fear are used to control and manipulate group members. In the Authors note he shares how the Waco seize of the Branch Davidians who were led by David Koresh was the source of inspiration for this book. He is not talking about or criticizing any Christian faith but trying to show how he imagines that cults work - again using the Branch Davidians as his inspiration.

The more I read, the more I enjoyed this book. The before and after timelines were a wonderful touch. The story unfolds seamlessly. Moonbeam is learning to trust, she has been taught to fear, to be guarded, and to think the worst of those who are not members of the Lord's Legion. She has a great inner dialogue and I appreciated hearing her thoughts and enjoyed her courage in taking a chance with sharing her experiences but also for her being nurturing and supportive to the children who were also at the hospital/care facility with her.

I found this book to be well written and captivating. This book is both thought provoking and tugs on the readers emotions. Many feelings may come up for the reader: shock, disgust, fear, sadness, hope, etc. I felt for Moonbeam, the children, and the other cult members on the compound. This is a well thought out book which shows the evil in some and the resiliency in others. This Author handles the heavy situations with grace and care. This is not a happy go lucky book, it does address the negative impact of cults but it also addresses hope, courage, inner strength and the desire to start over.

This book may have some triggers for some.

Thank you to Sourcebooks and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Read more of my reviews at www.openbookpost.com
Profile Image for Sumit RK.
341 reviews444 followers
November 5, 2018

The Only Way Out Of Darkness Is To Destroy It.

First & foremost, If you have not read After the Fire yet, I advise you jump straight to it, without reading a single spoiler or review (incl this one) or even the synopsis, because this is one unmissable & unique experience. Having read many domestic thrillers, murder mysteries and detective stories, After the Fire truly stands out thanks to it’s unique story, some incredible characters and above all some brilliant writing.

Without giving away too much of the plot, After The Fire is a story of Moonbeam; a member of the Lord's Legion (a religious cult). Moonbeam survives a deadly fire at the camp and the story is narrated by Moonbeam in alternating timelines from "before the fire" (past) and "after the fire" (present)

The story unfolds like a as a jigsaw puzzle. In the beginning, the picture looks confusing. But each chapter reveals another piece of the puzzle and the story keeps getting better and better with each small revelation that Moonbeam makes. Every small detail makes sense in the end, when the picture is finally complete.

The author has done a remarkable job of crafting a story about power, corruption, manipulation and survival. It’s a powerful story of a young girl’s lone struggle against all odds. His depiction of the life inside a cult, the brainwashing, the atmosphere of constant fear and surveillance is astounding. Based on the true story of Waco siege (near Texas, in 1993), the author has treated this story with honesty and sensitivity, without sensationalizing it or without diminishing it’s true horrors.

Will Hill has also done an amazing job in creating the characters, even the minor ones, especially Moonbeam. Strong yet vulnerable and struggling with her inner demons. As a girl, who has seen the truth but who pretends not to see it and as a girl who is surrounded by fanatics but whose is losing her own faith, bit by bit.

The story is extremely fast moving and the alternating timelines help the story unfold seamlessly.The book while an exciting thriller, also works as at it’s core it is an emotional story which many would relate to. The only drawback, I can think of is that the ending felt a bit predictable and required a major twist. Still, the more you read, the more you want to know what happens next. In the end, this book will make you introspect on how faiths and beliefs can be twisted to manipulate others.

Overall After the Fire is one of the most unique and exciting thrillers i have read in recent times. Most Recommended. (4.5/5)

Many Thanks to NetGalley, Sourcebooks Fire and Will Hill for the ARC.
Profile Image for ReadAlongWithSue .
2,636 reviews170 followers
September 3, 2019
This was a book I’d lost on my Net Galley collection. So I thought I would take the opportunity to read this between books I planned this month.

I don’t know how I came to overlook ok this book because it’s intense.
It refers in sequence to “before” the fire and “after” the fire and when Moonbeam was fenced in.

This is all about a cult. Moonbeam was programmed to act accordingly.

I had to remind myself she was only 17 years old. What she’s been through no one should have to experience.

My best bit was when she was in counselling and how in bits and pieces and although broken up in the revelation of it all it was compulsive reading no matter how horrendous.

A very complex, well written story with lots of background.

Profile Image for Monica.
506 reviews156 followers
October 29, 2018
Just fantastic!! I was hooked on this thriller from the very beginning!

This is a realistic and modern story of a US cult. The children and adults there have been brainwashed into fearing anyone outside their compound. Some of the children had never even seen Outsiders. It's fast paced with the timeline switching from "Before" to "After" frequently, but always in the same voice: our main character Moonbeam. She's had to endure way more than any teenager (or person) should ever have to. Her power struggle is as much internal as external throughout the story as she processes the horrible events.

I was truly captivated by this story and highly recommend it!

Many thanks to NetGalley for the book in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Cora Tea Party Princess.
1,323 reviews800 followers
August 22, 2017
5 Words: Family, belief, control, isolation, survival.

I went into this pretty much blind - as usual I hadn't read the blurb. What I knew of it came courtesy of #SundayYA and from the little I did know, I was eager to get reading. Because everyone who had read After The Fire had only good things to say about it.

I loved the way the story weaved between Before and After, how it was slowly revealed. It wasn't in order, there was a lot of switching back and forth, but it was at no point confusing. Rather, it kept me almost addicted to the story and made for some shocking revelations.

This is an intensely brutal story, honest and hard-hitting. It is a chilling page turner and I struggled to put it down. Believe the hype and read this book.
Profile Image for Claude's Bookzone.
1,461 reviews184 followers
November 18, 2020
Update with CW:

Well that made for a challenging but gripping read.

When reading about cults the two elements that strike me as the most interesting are the levels of control that leaders have over their communities, and the blind faith and devotion practiced by their followers. This book was a window into how control is exerted and devotion obtained. The threats, lies and deception used to control members in this book was sinister in nature and was aimed at supporting Father John's own narcissistic agenda. Even though, due to the dual timeline, I knew the outcome of the showdown between the police and the Holy Church of the Lord's Legion, I was still filled with a sense of dread whilst reading. The way that the girls were treated made me angry and uncomfortable and I was concerned for their safety throughout the entire novel.

We all search for meaning and purpose. So when the people in the story felt that they had found their 'place in life' under the leadership of this 'messiah-like' being I was overwhelmed with sadness. It must have been quite soul destroying for those whose elation and joy turned to confusion, disillusionment and disappointment as the truth was laid bare. I can't imagine the terror they must have felt at the thought of their loved ones being hurt for their own disobedience or dissenting opinion.

This story unfolded quite slowly but I don't think it would have been quite as impactful had it moved more quickly. We as Readers needed to follow Moonbeam's journey as she slowly began to awaken to the truth of her community and the lies it was built on. We also needed to see the path she followed to get to the point where she could finally reveal what happened during the raid.

An interesting and well written novel.
Profile Image for Selena.
478 reviews307 followers
October 4, 2018
I received a free coy of After The Fire by Will Hill from NetGalley for my honest review.

I don't normally read YA books but I had read so many good reviews that I decided I wanted to request it. I am very glad I read it. A fantastic read!

This is a story that goes from past to present in regards to Moonbeam and how she deals with the aftermath of a fire that uprooted her entire life. She wakes up in a secured facility but is scared and doesn't know if she is safe.

Moonbeam is forced to be a part of therapy sessions with a Dr. Hernandez and Agent Carlyle. Together, they are trying to help her put the pieces of her life back together. She is learning to cope with her fear and trying to confront each day with the realization that she survived and accept help from those around her.

Moonbeam grew up on the Lord's Legion, which is what I would call a cult. This cult is led by Father John. Moonbeam starts to reveal more information as time goes on about his brainwashing and tyrannical ways. She starts to realize that her beliefs and how she has been raised is wrong and wants to escape but who would help her?

This is a story of abuse and there times that it is very hard to continue reading it due to the very visual reading. You will learn as Moonbeam puts her life back together and remembers what happened that the guilt she holds with her will affect her and those who are trying to help her.

Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,396 reviews7,281 followers
December 10, 2019
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

3.5 Stars

“So many lives destroyed, and for what? So one man could be king of a patch of desert full of men and women who desperately wanted to believe in something.”

I’m running out of days of the year so let’s knock another review out real quick. Basically, After the Fire is a fictionalization of what is an absolutely unforgettable moment in history to people my age . . . . .

The story takes place literally “after the fire” when the compound burned down and focuses on a 17-year old survivor named Moonbeam. The setting is the hospital where she and other survivors are being cared for and in intense therapy to try and help them not only get through the immediate trauma they just experienced, but that they have incurred their entire life while living in a religious cult. I thought this was a very well done Young Adult book which tackled a moment in time that should not be forgotten. It handled more risqué subject matter (like the plural marriage of the leader) with kid gloves where no details were given and the wives all had to be 18, but it didn’t shy away from addressing questions my generation will always have about the actual event . . . . .

“You have to understand how an investigation of this scale works. The priority was gathering the necessary evidence for federal firearms and conspiracy indictments. They were building cases of illegal imprisonment and assault and pursuing about a dozen other charges at the same time, but it was the automatic weapons and blasting caps that were going to put John Parson away for the rest of his life.”

“So in the meantime, they just watched people get hurt? They just let it happen?”

I’d recommend this one to high schoolers looking for a more “true crime” type of experience while still reading a fictional story.
Profile Image for Steph.
882 reviews65 followers
July 27, 2017
This book is an absolute triumph. It's tough, moving, brace, honest. Moonbeam is an incredible main character and she is surrounded by repulsive characters and incredibly grave characters. I loved every second of this book. It's tense and intense. Totally worth reading. What a journey.
Profile Image for Dianne.
6,765 reviews579 followers
September 27, 2018
It’s hard to imagine one person being able to completely control the thoughts and actions of a crowd, but it happens, the hive mentality can provide a safe haven for some. Is that a failing of society? Of parenting? Of mentoring? How does an immoral vulture choose his victims?

Will Hill’s AFTER THE FIRE is a raw and telling look into the power of manipulation, brainwashing of the innocents and the aftermath of “freedom.” Although fictitious, this saga mimics the true story of the Branch Dividians and their charismatic puppet master.

The compound has been breached, the few survivors rounded up and the children taken into protective custody and therapy. This is the story of one teen and her journey from terror and mistrust of who she sees as her enemy to re-learning to trust, opening up to share the events of her life both before and AFTER THE FIRE.

Through her words told in sessions with a therapist and FBI agent, this grueling horror story unfolds as she unloads her guilt and the suffering she saw among God’s “Chosen.”

Moving, horrifying and heartbreaking, this tale is a must read for all readers, but written to resonate with teens. Told in a simple, straight forward manner, we feel as we are sitting with Moonbeam, witnessing her re-learning to trust in others without fear of reprisal. It is the story of her survival, re-birth and redemption, the story of her becoming a free-thinking individual.
Powerful and captivating reading!

I received a complimentary ARC edition from Sourcebooks Fire!

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire (October 2, 2018)
Publication Date: October 2, 2018
Genre: YA Fiction | Abuse
Print Length: 464 pages
Available from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
For Reviews, Giveaways, Fabulous Book News, follow: http://tometender.blogspot.com
Profile Image for Ashley Tooman.
169 reviews30 followers
April 19, 2019
What an emotional read!! Told thru the eyes of a 17 year old girl surviving a cult.. Highly recommend!!! I throughly enjoyed every page turned.
Profile Image for Roya.
281 reviews327 followers
May 7, 2018
I don't think it was dealt with enough depth or research. I don't think it was even revised enough times - the last chapter where we find out what the main character actually did is kind of obvious but is not integrated into the story. The only up sides to the story were the voice of the main character, which was plausible and the overall idea, which was fascinating even if the execution kind of ruined it.
Profile Image for Kelly.
308 reviews31 followers
August 7, 2017
I was immediately sold on reading this book the second I found out that it was about a cult. There is something so mysterious about a cult that really draws me in. A fascination to discover how people live in them and what it is that draws their faith. I had heard brilliant things about After the Fire and so I dived straight in after receiving the book as a birthday gift.

Will Hill certainly does not mess around with his writing and this is such a well crafted story of faith and the way in which our faith can sometimes waiver. Father John is an awful person and I felt nothing but pure hatred towards him. Something I think that Will Hill did incredibly well was to allow us as readers to see both sides of the story. As easily as I could hate Father John, I could also easily understand and see how many of the people in the cult believed him and had faith in him. This was something that really interested me as it isn’t something I had really considered before reading this book. Why is it that people put so much faith in such obviously abusive leaders?

The structure of this book was another thing that I really quite liked. Flicking back and forth between ‘Before’ and ‘After’ really helped to build the intrigue and mystery around Moonbeam’s secret. What exactly had happened in the compound? How did Moonbeam end up in the ‘After’? It was a really great way to explore Moonbeam’s character and get to know her through a series of events she had been through in her earlier life. I think it’s definitely one of the reasons I felt such a strong pull towards Moonbeam as a character. I really felt like I was living through each conversation with her and there was plenty in there to shock and enrage me.

I loved reading Moonbeam as a main character and had such huge sympathy towards her. It was clear from the beginning that there was more to Moonbeam’s story than first meets the eye and the intrigue intensifies as the story moves on and we see Moonbeam coming to terms with her life inside the cult and learn to trust those who have rescued her. With that trust comes a series of revelations from her life within the compound. Without a doubt Moonbeam has been through a traumatic experience but her ability to trust her own instincts and be able to question everything she thought she trusted is such a huge value in her character.

Two other characters whom I unexpectedly really enjoyed reading where Dr Hernandez and Agent Carlyle. There was something about their dynamic that just really caught me and I loved the idea of caring, cautious Dr Hernandez and fiery, enraged Agent Carlyle having some seriously heated conversations out of Moonbeam’s earshot. Dr Hernandez having dealt with numerous cases like Moonbeam’s before is much more able to cope with Moonbeam’s situation but we see Agent Carlyle have a really tough time with it, especially being father to a daughter of his own. His anger and distress was really relatable and I thought it was that added dimension that made this book feel so real. I loved their dynamic and especially the journey we see Agent Carlyle in particular go on by the end of the book.

After the Fire is a harrowing but real look at the effects of life within a cult and the after effects on those who escape. It is sure to send you on a rollercoaster of emotions from anger and sadness all the way back to hope.
Profile Image for GirlWithThePinkSkiMask .
323 reviews857 followers
March 5, 2022

Moonbeam lived on a compound ruled by Father John, until one day the Government came and she was rescued (although she may not see it that way). Now on the Outside, Moonbeam has to figure how who she can trust while grappling with the guilt of a dark secret.


OOOooohhhhh lawd. I LOVED this one. I'm a sicko and love a good religious cult story. Not a hot take, but TO ME, cults are so fascinating. I loved the inside look at how the Legion went from a "normal" cult playing baseball to a full out Super Cult forced to live like it was 1820.

It did drag on in some parts, and the "big reveal" wasn't that big, but I was drawn into the "insider info" of Moonbeam's life on the compound (even though she hates that word).

This is a good read for anyone who anyone who is fascinated by cults and wonder what makes people stay. Potential trigger warning if you've had bad experiences with religion.


Pros: Juicy, insightful, realistic.

Cons: A little slow in some parts... Found myself jumping ahead, but I went back and read the entire thing. No big reveal tbh. More like a look at cult life and the power of a narcissist wielding the Bible.


Moonbeam grew up on a cult. One day the government raids the cult and she, along with a handful of other children, are saved. Flash forward, Moonbeam is in therapy with a cop (kinda unprofesh?) and recounting her traumatizing tale, but is she telling them everything she knows? Dun dun DUNNNNN
Profile Image for Ruthy lavin.
423 reviews
October 28, 2018
Oh my goodness, I couldn’t put this down - what a story!
This book is just amazing, I haven’t got this excited about a book for ages.
I’m new to Will Hill’s work but I am now a confirmed huge fan - such is the brilliance of this story.
I love the main character and the alternating style of writing In past and present tense works so well.
My heart is still aching and I’m gutted the book has ended :(
An easy peasy and very worthy 5 stars 🌟
Profile Image for Lesincele.
881 reviews105 followers
November 20, 2019
Me ha sorprendido mucho. Está basado en un hecho real, en el asedio de Waco, en el que un perturbado lleva el control de una secta religiosa. Alterna entre pasado y presente y nos mostrará toda la historia mediante preguntas.
Me ha encantado
Profile Image for Repix.
2,132 reviews390 followers
January 20, 2020
No es un libro alegre, porque trata sobre el impacto negativo de las creencias, religiones y cultos, y sobre el abuso de poder de los hombres, siempre hombres, que se coronan líderes y pastores de gente engañada, que quiere y necesita creer en algo. Lo positivo es que también habla de coraje, de lucha interior y de salir adelante, pese a lo roto estes.
Me ha gustado mucho.
Profile Image for Kristie.
820 reviews357 followers
November 21, 2019
I thought this was an excellent story about a girl that grew up in a cult. It tells her story in two timelines: before and after the fire. The fire separates her time living in the cult and her time spent in a hospital speaking with Dr. Hernandez and Agent Carlyle.

The author did a fabulous job of showing the internal struggle of our our young MC, Moonbeam. Throughout the book you are hearing her thoughts as well as what she actually says to the doctor and agent. They do not always coincide, which makes the story feel more realistic. The character was well-developed and I enjoyed getting to know this resilient young woman.

There are a few parts to the story that don't ring completely true to me due to working in the field, but it was easy to overlook these minor issues due to the engaging writing and interesting storyline. Even knowing that certain things would not be acceptable or happen the way they did within the field, I could easily suspend my disbelief because other parts sounded so accurate.

This is the first story I have read by Will Hill and I am very interested in reading more of his writing. I really enjoyed his style.


Thank you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for providing me with a free electronic copy in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Kirsty .
3,223 reviews328 followers
April 5, 2017
Super intense and really chilling YA. I was hooked from the first page and didn't want to put it down until I was done.

I've come to expect a lot from Will Hill's writing after loving his Department 19 series despite not particularly being a fan of vampire stories or gore he had had me hooked. This book is completely different content wise but hooked me in much the same way with the intense writing style and an intriguing storyline.

Moonbeam's story is a fascinating one. We meet her as the police raid the cult she has been brought up on after a fire rips through the complex. I found myself utterly fascinated as Moonbeam's story starts to come out as she is interviewed by FBI and psychologists trying to understand more about life inside the cult so they can pin charges on the leaders of the cult. What particularly fascinated me was that the idea from the book was inspired by real events.

All in all an awesome and utterly fascinating read which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Profile Image for Sandra Uv.
1,002 reviews231 followers
November 29, 2019

“-¿Y cómo era?

-Un hombre. Tal vez un poco más listo que la mayoría, y bendecido con esa facilidad de palabra. Pero no es mismísimo Señor, y ni siquiera su mensajero. Simplemente un hombre, tan vano y codicioso y colérico como cualquier otro.”

Tras las llamas me ha parecido un notable thriller/drama, basado en hechos reales. Muy duro e impactante, pero necesario. Me ha gustado muchísimo y ya me he visto varios documentales del Asedio de Waco, ya que te quedas con ganas de saber más de lo que pasó.

-Reseña completa: https://addicionaloslibros.blogspot.c...
Profile Image for MAPS - Booktube.
896 reviews226 followers
November 25, 2022
Ayoye. C’était toute une lecture!

Le format entrevue est un élément facilitant pour la fluidité de la lecture. Tout comme l’alternance entre le présent et le passé. Ça permet de souffler un peu entre les scènes psychologiquement violentes que l’on peut lire.

Le travail de l’auteur a vraiment été bien fait. On ressent le côté oppressif de la secte et on comprend bien de quelle manière la peur et le contrôle étaient insérés. Au travers des yeux de cette jeune fille, on l’a voit se battre avec les enseignements reçus et d’un autre côté avec la peur de ce qu’elle ne connaît pas.

C’est un ouvrage poignant, sensible, sur la reconstruction de soi suite à des traumatismes importants subis dans une secte.

Un ouvrage que je recommande fortement à ceux qui veulent comprendre le pouvoir des gourous et de l’instauration d’une secte.
Profile Image for Juli.
1,844 reviews470 followers
October 16, 2018
Moonbeam was a member of the Lord's Legion cult until a fire destroyed the cult compound. She, and the other members, had lived totally controlled by cult leader Father John. As the fire is investigated, facts about the cult, its leader and members, and daily life in the compound are revealed.

Although this book is a little confusing at first, as Moonbeam reveals more and more about the compound and cult before and after the fire, the story becomes more clear. She is a strange and disturbing main character because all she knows is the Lord's Legion. She distrusts anyone who isn't a cult member and displays some strange behaviors. Her strangeness just adds to the suspense and slow reveal of facts, making this book disturbing, emotional and mesmerizing. The author does a great job of depicting the story of a controlling cult and its long-lasting effects on members. The tale is not without hope though....which made it easier for me to read.

When I was a child back in the 80s, there was a cult compound raided by the feds near where I lived. The cult leader murdered a man and a 5-year old boy on a rural farm. The trial and all the mess that followed completely shocked everyone in the area. It was mind-numblingly awful. Even as a child, I remember being so surprised that people would follow such a nasty (and crazy) person, and even more shocked that parents brought their children to this weird rural compound led by a nut in overalls ranting strange racist, pseudo-religious crapola. So, this book really hit home with me and made me see things from the other side. As an adult, I live in a town 1200 miles away from where I grew up.....and a local cult (disguised as a church) is being investigated for fraud, abuse, and other crimes. Again, I am shocked that people actually follow the craziness taught by this cult (they scream at people to release demons from them, require people to give all their possessions to the church, control members' finances, etc) and its leader -- an old woman who is just completely disgusting. How do people like this gain control over so many?? It still boggles my mind. I kept thinking about this local cult the entire time I was reading this book. It really hit home with me. Groups like this are more commonplace than anyone would like to admit. I've personally encountered three such groups in my lifetime and heard about so many more.

Definitely an emotional, hard-hitting book! I'm definitely going to read more by this author!

*I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Sourcebooks via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
256 reviews285 followers
October 5, 2018
Tl;dr: Well written and sensitive account of a teenage girl who is a survivor of a government raid on the cult where she was raised. Will especially resonate with those who remember what happened in Waco, Texas (which is adult readers)

Although After the Fire is classified as a young adult novel and I do think the mc, Moonbeam, and what she goes through will be interesting to teen readers, I think that adults who renember what happened at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, will actually find this more interesting. I know that my recollections of the time prompted my interest in the book, and I thought that Mr Hill did am amazing job with Moonbeam, whose story is heartbreaking and so, so well done.

Things I especially loved, and the one thing that kept this from being a five star read: (SPOILERS AHEAD)




-- I loved that we never find out what Moonbeam's real name was. I like to think that in a few years, she'll either pick one for herself or stay Moonbeam in honor of what she did to save those she could, and for herself for her strength in doing what she thought was right versus what she was taught

--Nate. I loved that he never ever became a love interest, but instead was someone doing the best he could under an extremely difficult situation, and that, in the end, he didn't survive. I thought that touch of realism--as Mr. Hill does an outstanding job of portraying Father John's fanaticism-- was a sobering and painful but necessary reminder of what cult leaders will do to make sure they keep power. And Mr Hill did a fantastic job of portraying Moonbeam's realization that, with Nate (and her grandparents and presumably mother's) death, there is no one left for her to reach out to.

-- Moonbeam and Honey. What happened to Honey was horrific and I thought Mr Hill did a great job of fleshing Honey out. I loved how strong Honey was, how she and Moonbeam realized how difficult everything would be for the other, younger survivors, and everything they did to help. I was also really glad that Honey got a happy, but realistic end in After the Fire

--Luke. Kudos to Mr Hill for making me feel a tiny bit of compassion for a throughly deplorable character. I loathed him, but understood, as Moonbeam did, that even though he was horrible, he was also broken.

Now for what I didn't like:

-- The ending. I figured Moonbeam's mother would show up, but by the time I was mostly done with After the Fire, I started to think she wouldn't and I was *so* imoressed by Mr. Hill writing such a realistic (and for a ya novel, bold) ending. Moonbeam had survived, had told her story and started to heal, but was going to face becoming part of the world largely alone. It was gritty and real and I was wondering if there would be a sequel and then...

Well, of course, with about three or fewer chapters left, wouldn't you know it, but Moonbeam's mother is alive. Not in great shape (that was the one realistic touch) but still, suddenly Moonbeam is okay because family! Real, true family! I was so disappointed because the miraculous return of a family member for a happy ending is such a cliche and Mr Hill had done a pretty good job of avoiding them. But the ending, making it so wrapped up with a bow and 834566543 cherries on top? It felt like a copout and was a copout and my disappointment is compounded by the fact that until then, After the Fire was so good. Then it just felt like another teen survives something awful and heals with family novel and those are everywhere.

Having said all that I do think After the Fire will appeal to teen readers who like angst with a happy ending, although I think the book's largest audience is actually people like me who remember Waco and wondered about the children Koresh realeased during the events of 1993. And for those adult readers, this book is going to be very compelling, although the too neat ending may annoy.
Profile Image for María P..
159 reviews82 followers
November 25, 2019
La primera vez que leí la sinopsis de este libro no me quedó muy claro sobre qué iba a tratar porque lo cierto es que no arroja muchos detalles al respecto, así que no sabía muy bien qué esperar. Sí sabía que era un thriller, pero desconocía el tema sobre el que giraría la historia. Lo que he encontrado en este libro ha sido una historia de supervivencia, donde la protagonista, Moonbeam, ve cómo toda su vida y creencias se derrumban y debe aprender a crear unas nuevas. Ha sido un libro mucho más maduro de lo que esperaba, con un trasfondo muy profundo, y que me ha sorprendido muchísimo.

Ya desde las primeras páginas me pareció que iba a ser un libro bastante impactante, y lo fue, me tuvo enganchada durante toda la lectura. De hecho, tengo que reconocer que llevaba unos días sin leer nada, pero fue empezar este libro y no poder soltarlo. En estas páginas conoceremos a Moonbeam, una joven que está sufriendo un Trastorno por Estrés Postraumático, y cuya historia vamos descubriendo a través de los diálogos que tiene con el psiquiatra que la atiende y un agente de la policía, y también a través del recurso del flashback. Además, sabemos que no nos está contando todo lo que sabe y que hay algo que la atormenta, pero se niega a contarlo. No quiero hablar mucho de la sinopsis de este libro porque creo que resulta más impactante descubrir por uno mismo qué le ha pasado a la protagonista y por qué reacciona de la manera en la que lo hace.
Una de las cosas que más me han gustado de este libro ha sido el desarrollo de la trama. Me parece que el autor ha hecho un trabajo excelente a este respecto, y es que consigue dotar de realismo y verosimilitud a lo que nos cuenta, de manera que el lector entiende a la perfección qué y cómo ha sucedido todo, y cree en lo que está leyendo, como si realmente pudiera pasar. El final ha sido trepidante y emocionante, con muchísimos sentimientos e información que procesar.

Los personajes, en específico Moonbeam, me han parecido muy reales. El autor ha sabido recrear cómo sería la actitud y los sentimientos de una persona que sufre un Trastorno por Estrés Postraumático. Me ha gustado mucho cómo ha sido la evolución de su personaje a lo largo de todo el libro, sobretodo durante la terapia con el psiquiatra, donde se pueden ir observando sus avances. Quizás me hubiera gustado verla también en otros contextos, porque creo que puede llegar a resultar algo repetitivo las situaciones que se narran, pero a mí personalmente me ha gustado mucho. En cuanto al resto de personajes, ha resultado ser un elenco muy completo y muy bien desarrollado, con personalidades muy potentes y que dan mucho juego en la historia.

Tras las llamas ha sido un libro que me ha sorprendido mucho más de lo que esperaba. He disfrutado mucho con su lectura y no puedo más que recomendarlo si os gustan los libros de este género.
Profile Image for Meredith Mara.
282 reviews77 followers
August 12, 2019
Gripping. Ridiculously amazing. Loosely based on the 1993 standoff between the Branch Davidians of Waco, Texas, and Federal Agents, After the Fire is an incredible read about love, hope, loss, and courage. And, bookies, the last book that left me feeling so profoundly impacted was Michelle Obama's, Becoming. The story is that of seventeen-year-old Moonbeam. Moonbeam's a survivor of the fire that tore through her isolated community. The fire that "freed" her from the religious cult in which she was raised. And her story is an incredibly powerful reading experience, deserving of five stars alone for the author's pure mastery of character, plot, and structure. Add in the soul at the heart of the story and Moonbeam's struggle, and I wish I could give this book six stars because this one truly deserves them. One of the best books I've read all year.
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