Book Review: After
By: Amy Efaw
Narrated By: Rebecca Soler
Published By: Penguin Audio
Publication Date: August 2009
Audio Length: 10 hours, 10 minutes
Audience: YA - Realistic Fiction, Teen Pregnancy, Crime
On the Writing & Story:
Be warned - this book is not for the faint of heart. I went through the emotional gauntlet with this one - disgust, rage, sadness, remorse, confusion, fear - you name it, I felt it. I had a really hard time deciding how I felt about this book because it was hard for me to overcome my initial reaction to the event that triggers the plot - Devon Davenport, a high school sophomore, delivers a baby girl in the bathroom of her apartment and promptly disposes of the child in a black trash bag, leaving her behind her apartment building in the dumpster to die. My heart broke for the baby as the story of that evening unfolds throughout Devon's flashbacks while she is in juvenile hall awaiting her upcoming hearing to determine whether her charge of attempted murder will be heard in a juvenile or adult court.
The topic of the book was really hard for me for a variety of reasons and I almost didn't read this one because of that. However, I decided that I was going to get through this one - no matter what. I'm so glad I did because the research was flawless and the writing was strong. Efaw does a great job of explaining how the juvenile court system in Washington State operates. I really enjoyed the trial elements of this one. I wish more teens would read this one. It truly makes you think about your actions and how one moment of panic and bad judgement can alter the path of your future in drastic ways.
One of the biggest issues I had with this book was Devon. I was hoping that at some point I would understand her choice to throw her baby away, but this never happened for me in spite of the author's attempts to bring everything to light. Devon's life is hard - I get that - I understand that she freaked out about the baby - but I just didn't understand or agree with most of the choices she made. Keeping her mother in the dark made sense on some level, but there were so many other people who cared about Devon and would have helped her out if she had given them the chance. She was not a very likable character in my mind and I never got to the point where I felt any empathy toward her concerning her crimes. Devon did have a redeeming moment at the very end that improved my opinion of her, but it was difficult to stick with this book when she frustrated me so much. I couldn't wrap my mind around how she didn't seem to feel any remorse for her actions and she always referred to the baby as "it". My teen experience was very different from Devon's so I tried to keep that in my mind as I grappled with her decisions.
Overall, in spite of my feelings about Devon, I did enjoy this book. Its a heartbreaking look at how terrifying teenage motherhood can be and the lengths that some people will go to in order to preserve the image they have built for themselves. This book will make you stop to consider that there are two sides to every story and perhaps some people are looked down upon for their actions when there are so many elements at play that are hidden beneath the surface. It made me truly curious about what goes through peoples' minds when they are doing things like throwing a baby in a dumpster. What breeds the ability to do such things? What can be done to help these people before they commit acts against others?
If you're in the mood to handle all the emotions and thoughts this one conjures and can handle the seriousness of the topic - then this book is one that is not to be missed. Amy Efaw's writing skill is superb and I am looking forward to reading her other book, Battle Dress.
On the Audio:
Rebecca Soler did a beautiful job narrating this one. She adds a layer of emotion to the voice of Devon that will break your heart. She also did a nice job of distinguishing the voices for the other characters. The only major complaint I have about the audio is that sometimes it was hard for me to figure out what was a flashback and what was happening in modern time. The events were very different and were what I used to orientate myself to the time period, but the changes between could often be abrupt.
I would highly recommend the audio version of this one.
One Last Gripe: I didn't like that I never found out the fate of the girls in Pod D or the baby. What happens next?
My Favorite Thing About This Book: The legal elements
First Sentence: The TV's on, some lame morning show.
Favorite Character: Dom
Least Favorite Character: Devon's Mom
An infant left in the trash to die. A teenage mother who never knew she was pregnant . . .
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, Ms. Efaw takes the reader on Devon's unforgettable journey toward clarity, acceptance, and redemption.