CM . . . . Volume XV Number 13. . . .February 20, 2009.
After: A Novel. (Spoonful fiction).
Montreal, PQ: Smith, Bonappťtit, 2008.
198 pp., pbk., $12.95.
Teenagers and death-Juvenile fiction.
Grief and death-Juvenile fiction.
Courage and death-Juvenile fiction.
Grades 7-10 / Ages 12-15.
Review by Daphne Hamilton-Nagorsen.
Iím not excited, I m scared. I was bad enough going back to school the first time, after. Kids I knew acted like I had some sort of disease. Kids I didnít know came up and wanted to know things, things you don t want to hear about. And adults kept telling me they knew how I felt.
No one knows how I feel.
Sometimes, when it gets really bad, I pretend it didnít happen. I sit in my room and close my eyes and pretend the world hasnít changed. I pretend that everything is like before.
After is the story of two teens whose lives are connected by a shooting at a local convenience story. Kateís brother was the store clerk, and after his death, her family moved away to a rural area where they are trying to move on with their lives. Samís brother was the shooter, and Sam and his sister must now face life as the family of a killer. Sam and Kate must both discover how to come to terms with the past and rebuild their dreams and plans for the future.
After takes place over a long period of time and is relatively slow-moving because the primary focus is the internal struggles of the main characters. The pace works really well and allows Hazel Hutchins more than enough time to explore the feelings and emotions of Sam and Kate as they try to deal with the impact of the shooting on their lives. This also makes After appealing to a wider readership. External events do play an important role, such as both Sam and Kateís trying to adjust to life at new schools, but the internal focus makes After quite intriguing.
The narrative styles are interesting but may make the book less appealing to some readers. Kate is presented in the first person, through a series of letters she has written to her best friend, while Sam is presented in the third person. Since the chapters alternate between the characters, this
difference in narrative can become quite jarring at time. The shortness of some of the chapters contributes to this effect. This also can lead the reader to feel somewhat disconnected from the main characters. In addition, the use of first person for Kate tends to push the reader into being more sympathetic towards her than to Sam, which can be rather frustrating.
Sam and Kate are both attractive characters in their own ways. Both are written quite realistically, with both acting like teens rather than like miniature adults. Each has his/her own challenges, and both face them in their own ways. The characters of Sam and Kate both contrast and complement each other to show the impacts that violence has on teens and their families.
Overall, Hazel Hutchins has written an intriguing book that provides a good look at the impacts of violence on teens and families, from both the point of the view of the family of the victim and
the family of the perpetrator. While the narrative styles may not appeal to some readers, After is worth looking at beyond the surface to see what the characters think and feel as they try to deal with the past and move on with their lives.
Daphne Hamilton-Nagorsen is a graduate of the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC.
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