Tuesday, April 3, 2012

After by Francine Prose

The school shooting at Pleasant Valley was a shock to everyone at the high school, but the ripples of the event spread further than the local community.  At nearby Central High School the students hear about the events when their cellphones start going off in class as anxious parents try to reach their children and make sure that they are all okay.  When the students come back after a day off school they discover Dr. Willner, the new grief and crisis counselor.  There is something fake about Dr. Willner, something that makes Tom more than a little suspicious.  Over the next few weeks changes start happening at the school, new rules, severe punishments for even minor infractions, and each night emails to their parents list more changes and more rules. 

Central goes from your average high school to something resembling a police state.  Now every morning the students have to go through metal detectors and random students are thoroughly searched by security guards.  Random locker searches start happening, with students deemed a danger to themselves brought before Dr. Willner for a private chat.  Even the extra curricula programmes start to change, with random drug screening.  The trouble makers are expelled from school, and they seem to disappear - no one knows where all of them go, but some are sent to youth camps where they can learn the error of their ways.  As things become more and more desperate, Tom must make a decision about what he is going to do - follow the rules and be a good boy, or follow his heart and find out what is really happening at his school.

Okay, it may sound strange but I really didn't like this book, but I also loved it so much that I sat down and read it in a single sitting in an afternoon.  That may sound strange, but the storyline was a brilliant idea, and the whole concept behind the novel really intrigued me - but the author was full of cliched, her cast were very "flat", and the writing itself was rather mediocre.  Strange I know, but this is the first time I have not liked the writing of an author this much and still finished the entire book. 

If you are after an interesting idea to start a group discussion about how power can be abused, or how things can change rapidly in a short space of time then this is the book for you.  It was fascinating to see how the parents and other adults were manipulated so quickly, and how people can have their rights and freedoms taken away so quickly.  Looking at this book, and without spoiling the plot too much, you can see how something so simple as taking over a high school and making changes could lead to a hugely different state of being in only a generation or two - think Nazi youth or some of the Christian cults.

If you like this book then try:
  • Touch by Francine Prose
  • Tomorrow, when the war began by John Marsden
  • The chocolate war by Robert Cormier
  • Hate list by Jennifer Brown
  • The outsiders by S. E. Hinton
  • The wave by Todd Strasser
  • Memento Nora by Angie Smibert
  • Give a boy a gun by Todd Strasser
  • Candor by Pam Bachorz

Reviewed by Brilla

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