Author: Amy Efaw
Release Date: August 20, 2009
Publisher: Viking Juvenile Publishing
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Summary: 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.
My Thoughts: I read After almost straight through without stopping. Amy Efaw grabbed my attention from page one and never lost it. I was, at various times, repulsed, disgusted, saddened, amazed, rapt and filled with admiration for the girl at the center of this story. Amy Efaw has written a riveting book that sheds light on a horrendous situation happening almost daily in our country. She also offers one explanation as to why and, in doing so, reminds us that rarely is something as simple as it appears.
After is written from the point of view of a sixteen-year old girl named Devon. Efaw does a remarkable job of drawing her readers into Devon's world by providing a front-row seat to her thoughts and feelings over an eight day period in her life as she copes with the fall out from the terrible thing she's done. As Devon re-counts her life from her earliest memory to her first relationship with a boy, we are privy to her hopes and dreams as well as her confusion, fears and insecurities. The person Devon presents to society is a very different girl from the private person no one else knows but her. By writing from Devon's point of view, Efaw reveals the very private Devon and, in doing so, garners sympathy for her. Devon's horrendous behavior becomes more understandable the more we learn about her and how she has had to live her life, though it doesn't lessen the severity of her actions.
Devon is an intelligent, over-achieving, amazing soccer player who baby-sits for money whenever she can find the time. She is also a lonely, sad, scared child who takes care of her mother more than her mother cares for her. Devon has essentially raised herself and Ms. Efaw knows how to use this to soften up her readers, though it is by no means some hackneyed ploy. I would imagine there are many girls who see themselves in Devon and, if they are honest with themselves, parents who see themselves in this story as well as some of their own child in Devon. By the time I read that Devon was only five the first time her mother left her alone for an entire weekend, I wanted to scoop the little girl up in a huge hug and never let go.
Life has taught Devon that she can trust no one but herself and the rules she has fashioned for herself don't permit her to let anyone in. Her life has been about pleasing her mother because if she makes her mother happy and proud enough, maybe she'll become the mother Devon so desperately wants. But when Devon discovers she might be pregnant, not only has she disappointed and failed herself, she's ruined everything. The thought is too much for her to handle so she stuffs her fear, rage, disappointment and sadness, at the situation she's gotten herself into, deep down inside and true to soccer form, kicks it away.
I thought the way Amy Efaw handles Devon's denial of her pregnancy was terrific. I have seen, heard and experienced a lot of women in denial over something big when I was a prosecutor working with victims of domestic violence. The ability to deny is strong and can completely obliterate something from your life if you want it to disappear badly enough. This is Efaw's strength - taking a specific situation that may be foreign to many of us and making it not just identifiable, but inviting us to become emotionally invested.
There's very little to criticize about After. The only "issue" I have is that there is just a hint as to where the mother-daughter dynamic may end up. I would have preferred that this be explored deeper and resolved more fully. If, in fact, Devon does not want to do more in terms of thinking about or interacting with her mother, Efaw should take the time to explain Devon's reasons. It's hard to imagine that Devon's anger towards her mother would dissipate easily or quickly . Then, again, Devon is a remarkable girl.
I won this book from Amy at Addicted to Books, a beautiful blog filled with wonderful reviews of YA books. Thank you Amy!