Sunday, July 31, 2011


Title:               After
Category:       Realistic
Grade:            15+
Author:          Amy Efaw
Publisher:       Speak
Place:              New York
Date:               2009
Pages:             350

Dawn has always been determined to be different from her drug-addicted, sexually promiscuous mother.  Up until her fifteenth year, she has succeeded, making the honor roll every term, being a responsible and mature young woman, and being hailed as a potential Olympian on the soccer field.  All that changes, however, when police discover her bleeding to death from a partial delivery, and find her newborn infant in the dumpster outside.  Placed temporarily in juvenile detention, Dawn awaits the court hearing that will determine whether she should be tried as an adult for a premeditated act of attempted murder, or if she will be permitted to remain and be tried in the juvenile system.  As Dawn slowly comes out of the fog surrounding her since IT happened, both she and her lawyer must try to piece together the story of her pregnancy and delivery.  Dawn, who spends much of the narrative attempting to come to terms with the idea that she was even pregnant, will ultimately remain in the juvenile system, and is portrayed very believably by Efaw as truly being in such a state of denial that she did not know what she was doing. However, although evidence surfaces that could find her innocent on a technicality, Dawn ends the narrative in a move that will surely create discussion among teen readers by choosing to plead guilty. 

Efaw spent seven years researching the phenomenon of “dumpster babies” and creates a disturbing and truly sympathetic portrait of a young woman caught in a trap of her own making that will leave a profound impression on readers. Not since Unwind have I read a more powerful, disturbing or thought-provoking book as After.  While some people have criticized it as irrelevant, melodramatic and overly detached, I feel that this book has done a masterful job of portraying this little-known yet oft-occurring situation.  Efaw commented that she took seven years to research this book, and it shows on every page. Having worked and lived with young adults who were pregnant for months without knowing it, and one who even delivered her son before finding out she was pregnant, I can absolutely believe the seemingly impossible circumstance of being pregnant due to some form of trauma and denying it so thoroughly that no one is the wiser.  The writing is often very detached with an “out-of-body” feel to it; however, this is exactly the impression the author intended to create as the main character is experiencing an extreme depersonalization of the events happening to her.  While the content is disturbing for younger teens, older girls will appreciate this story; Efaw builds an absolutely believable character and makes it possible for readers to actually sympathize with this young woman who has committed such a heinous act.  At the same time, many will be likely to question many of Dawn’s decisions, opening the door for discussion on many levels.  The ideas of guilt and innocence, victimization, parental neglect and abuse, and second chances all run through the story and give developing teens a marvelous opportunity to “walk in someone else’s shoes.”


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