Sunday, June 19, 2011


After by Amy Efaw (NY: Viking, 2009).

This is an absolutely gripping story about what happens to a girl who dumps her newborn baby in the trash. We've all read that story in the paper and wondered how anyone could do that to a baby. Efaw's novel gives one highly plausible answer.

Fifteen-year-old Devon didn't even know she was pregnant. That may seem hard to believe, but the story makes it clear that she truly did not know and makes her denial seem realistic. All of a sudden she's violently ill and gripped by horrendous pain. Then the blood starts flowing and after endless hours of suffering, out comes a Thing. And it's still attached to her. She gets it off. With nail clippers. It looks like a blob of bloody white rubber, but then it starts making noise. Devon needs it to be quiet. She wraps up all the bloody mess of her ordeal, puts everything in a trash bag, and carries it to a dumpster. Then she wraps herself in a blanket and retreats to the sofa, drifting in and out of consciousness, knowing that she's missing school, but also knowing there's no way she can go today. Her mother comes home from work and finds her, but just keeps talking. Something about a cute cop out in the alley. A knock on the door and soon Devon is being arrested, but taken to the hospital for treatment first before being locked up at a juvenile detention center.

In addition to all these shocking details, there's background about Devon's life before: her mad skills as a soccer goalkeeper, her excellent grades, her coaching, her babysitting. There's also her flighty mother who's constantly involved with low-life guys, herself a teen mom who managed to get a GED and now works at a grocery store and a bar--mainly night shifts. Devon has been taking care of herself for years, and she has her sights set on a better future for herself. A soccer scholarship at a Division I school. How could she have ended up in juvie? And worse, looking at the possibility of being tried for attempted murder as an adult? How?

Yes, there are gruesome details, but there's also a great story here about a girl who's trying so hard she can't see what's right in front of her eyes. Efaw convinces the reader that it really is possible to deny a pregnancy and hide it from everyone. In the end, Devon is wholly sympathetic and her tragic story is rendered in a manner that's completely believable. Highly recommended for teens, ages 14 & up.

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