Lauren Fidler's Reviews > After

After by Amy Efaw
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this novel felt a little bit like Speak and Stephanie Daley had a baby.

oh, tastelessly unintentional pun there. my bad.

the premise: teen soccer queen devon sky davenport finds herself locked in juvey after concealing her pregnancy and subsequently throwing away the product of said-pregnancy in the trash. it's an exhausting tale as the reader transports through devon's denial and learns to understand how a sophomore with just amazing potential came crashing down to earth so violently.

the sky:
1. a complete and well-constructed plot - efaw weaves several threads competently here without sacrificing the basic plotline. there is the danger in stories with multiple settings, characters, and timelines to feel, as the reader, that the narrative is being pulled in distinctly different directions. a sort of three-in-one narration, if you will. here, all aspects fuse into the conclusion in a way that worked.
2. devon - she's actually likable - well, as much as a teenager who tries to kill their baby can be likable. you want her to understand why she made the decision she did, and you want to know she'll be okay in the end.
3. idealism - finally, a YA novel where the teenager accepts personal responsibility for their actions! - having read Monster i was prepared for another novel where the protagonist narrates a heavily biased account of their actions and thus tries to persuade the reader and themselves of their inherent innocence. this isn't a novel about that. devon struggles to figure out what she did do, and, although it scares her, she needs to confront it and accept it.

the limit:
1. the XX factor - with a lot of female characters comes a lot of female drama. there's a reason i hung out with boys in high school. devon's mother is terrible, her fellow inmates are terrible, devon is terrible...the only female i actively respected was dom who ultimately does the right thing but wouldn't necessarily have gravitated to it without applied pressure from her client.
2. the end - while i fully support efaw's decision to have devon accept responsibility, the end felt incredibly forced. no teenager - let alone sophomore - thinks about their guilt or assumes personal responsibility as seamlessly as devon does here. i teach 10th graders. i know of what i speak. and, in the same vein...
3. the language - devon is either a genius or efaw doesn't quite know how to speak teenager. my money's on the latter (even though we get a nifty little flashback of devon's guidance counselor telling her she could hang with the juniors and seniors in AP history). furthermore, if one more character in juvey called someone "girl" i was going to blind myself, oedipus-styles.
4. the intended audience - there's a scene where devon is reading in prison (some horrible sounding teen sci-fi/fantasy book about cross-dressing knights who joust) and i couldn't help thinking, "wow, if i were in prison, i'd totally want to read this book" (by which i mean After not, you know, whatever crap devon was reading). that's probably not a good thing.

3 stars - quick, well-paced, compelling in a YA kind of way. had devon not accepted personal responsibility, it would have only been two. do with that what you will.

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