After – Amy Efaw
Genre: YA; Realistic Fiction
Summary: Devon, a straight-A student and star athlete, is rarely inclined to do anything wrong, until one fateful day when a single decision changes her life forever. Devon discovers she’s pregnant, and instead of keeping the baby when it arrives, she opts to throw it in a trash can and leave it for dead. This plan seems to be going off without a hitch, until detectives arrive and discover she is the perpetrator of the crime. Can Devon get herself out of this mess?
Review: First, a confession: I’m really drawn to shows and books that are about teen pregnancy, especially the MTV hit Teen Mom (I honestly have no idea why). I’m not proud (but apparently not so ashamed that I can’t admit to this on a public forum), but it is what it is. Because of this, it will probably come as no surprise that I was really excited to read After, as it was vastly different than what I’m used to reading about teen pregnancy. Much to my chagrin, however, I didn’t really care for this book all that much, which was a shame since I really wanted to like it.
The main problem I had centered around Devon herself. Yes, she was smart and capable, but it did not excuse the poor decision she made regarding her child’s birth. I’m 100% pro-choice, so it’s not the fact that she didn’t want the baby that bothers me; what bothers me is the fact that she tried to kill it after it was born. Since she decided not to terminate her pregnancy in its early stages, she could have given the child up for adoption instead of putting it in a dumpster shortly after its birth. There were other options available, and she just didn’t take them. I understand that she was scared and acted without thinking, but she never really seemed all that remorseful about her actions; rather, she just seemed upset that she got caught. Perhaps if she would’ve shown an iota of repentance and thought for just a second that maybe she made the wrong choice, I would’ve cared about her more. Because of this, along with the fact that she never revealed too much of herself to the reader, I had a really hard time relating to her at all, and if she would’ve stopped trying to shift the blame and pretend like it wasn’t happening, perhaps I would’ve liked her more.
I had heard of ‘dumpster babies’ before I read this, and I was hoping After would shed some insight on why someone would make this decision. We all know it would be an act of desperation, but Devon’s complete refusal to accept reality did nothing to help her case. I really wish this could’ve been more than it was.
I did enjoy reading the drama regarding whether she would be tried in juvenile or adult court. If found guilty, adult court would, of course, make her sentence much stiffer than juvenile court, and it was interesting to see the evidence and arguments presented on both sides of the case. After also raised many moral dilemmas for the reader to postulate on: should a person be defined for their entire life by something they did as a teenager? Should people be given a second chance? What would you do in this situation?
While After wasn’t for me, people who enjoy realistic fiction and courtroom dramas may like it. I would recommend it for older readers, though, as the subject matter and some of the scenes therein are rather graphic indeed.