Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Release: August 11, 2009
An infant left in the trash to die. A teenage mother who never knew she was pregnant . . .Before reading After, these were the words that could have been used to describe me: confused about how I should feel towards Devon, intrigued about how the author would portray her, and excited to read the book and find out. After reading After, there was only one all-encompassing way to define my feelings: completely awed.
Before That Morning, these were the words most often used to describe straight-A student and star soccer player Devon Davenport: responsible, hardworking, mature. But all that changes when the police find Devon home sick from school as they investigate the case of an abandoned baby. Soon the connection is made. Devon has just given birth; the baby in the trash is hers. After That Morning, there's only one way to define Devon: attempted murderer.
And yet gifted author Amy Efaw does the impossible. She turns Devon into an empathetic character, a girl who was in such deep denial that she refused to believe she was pregnant. Through airtight writing and fast-paced, gripping storytelling, Efaw takes the reader on Devon's unforgettable journey toward clarity, acceptance, and redemption.
The single most amazing thing about this book is Efaw's ability to transform an attempted murderer into someone who comes across as more of a victim than a criminal. The author describes Devon's thoughts and utter denial with objective details as well as empathetic dialogue, and vividly shows how the repercussions of her actions shock and disturb her. Readers are not forced into feeling sorry for the main character but are left to develop their own feelings of inevitable compassion, which makes the bond between reader and character even stronger. I had every reason to resent Devon, and I almost did at times, but my overpowering feeling was one of understanding, creating an entirely new character-reader relationship that I absolutely loved.
This works so well because of how bravely Efaw executes her stance. Her sympathy-for-the-villain angle is potentially controversial, but the author practically dares anyone to say that Devon's distress is not relatable or a huge factor in her choices. Although she clearly does not condone the protagonist's actions and the ultimate message is, obviously, that they were wrong, Efaw never strays from the idea that Devon's denial does not excuse, but does explain them.
The remarkably well-done backdrops of a juvenile detention center and a courtroom perfectly complement Devon's journey to understanding. They magnify her repercussions, showing how the aftermath affects her and serving almost as a warning, and they add some excitement to the plot. I loved the atmosphere Efaw created in Devon's jail and the back and forth banter during her trails is captivating and suspenseful, both of which make After interesting and thought-provoking as well as powerful.
Everything about After is incredibly emotional as well as intellectually stimulating. This short glimpse into a window of the life of a teenage mother so deep in denial that she does the unimaginable to avoid the truth will have you invested, enthralled, and surprised at your own feelings. Best of all, it will leave you with a deeper understanding of the people around you-their nuances, feelings, problems they could be hiding-which is something you will never forget.