Allison's Book Bag

After by Amy Efaw

Posted on: October 17, 2013

After by Amy Efaw

After by Amy Efaw

After by Amy Efaw is a disturbing story which deals with the phenomenon of “dumpster babies”. It has the feel of an uneven musical composition. Sometimes the style turned me off. Other times, the character portrayal felt wrong. And, once in a while, the plot felt overloaded. Yet within the bulk of its pages is a story that I enjoyed.

I’ll get back to the parts I enjoyed later, but first let me address the style. The first several chapters with their rapid-fire sentences felt like the incessant tap-tap-tap of a staccato beat. Interspersed within those chapters were occasional scenes of frenzy, as if the composer were stumbling over notes in a panicked attempt to find the right rhythm. However, just when I felt ready to walk away, the melody evened out. From that moment forward, despite the occasional wrong note, the composition was pleasant. Basically, I didn’t care for the early scenes in which Devon just laid at home in her blood, police arrested her for dumping a newborn, or a doctor examined her. Once Efaw placed Devon in a juvenile detention center and forced her to deal with the charges against her, the story finally began to interest me. This is also where the pace slowed and Efaw began to reveal more of Devon’s deeper emotions.

Efaw picked a challenging character in Devon Davenport. On the one hand, Devon is a teenage girl who vowed to never become her mom. She intended to first attend college and to establish a career. Then and only then would she allow herself to date, get married, have sex, and become a mom. But then Devon has a vulnerable moment. Allows herself to fall in love. And have sex. On the other hand, Devon is a young woman who denies even to herself that she has gotten pregnant and has given birth to a baby, and so she dumps her child. No matter how one frames it, Devon will be a tough character to understand. To provide distance from Devon, who starts off in huge denial, Efaw decided to write After in third person. I understand why Efaw made this choice, but it still feels like a mistake. For the first third of the book I basically hated Devon. Perhaps the young ladies whom Efaw observed as part of her research acted as arrogant and self-centered as Devon, and so maybe After is an accurate portrayal of teens who dump their babies, but as fiction After also needs to readers a reason to read the page. I almost didn’t.

One reason I kept reading is because After had been recommended to me as part of my round-up on misfit and troubled kids. Devon Davenport certainly fits the bill. She resists arrest. She kicks a doctor in the face. She argues with the attorney assigned her case. Only when Devon realizes that she could be tried for murder as an adult does she stop fighting everyone and start to accept that she might need help. At that point, the tough exterior wanes and Devon starts to look a little more like the frightened sixteen-year-old that she is. At the book’s website, Efaw says that one thing she hopes readers will take away from After is the importance of getting involved in other people’s lives. This is especially true of troubled kids. Efaw also encourages ones to not be afraid to ask for help, which is something that troubled kids often find especially difficult.

When Devon finally started showing herself as vulnerable, After became extremely moving and Efaw gave me many reasons to feel sympathy. She works hard to become a model prisoner. She builds new relationships. And she begins to search her soul for the truth of who she really is and wants to be.

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?

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