Reading Level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 3334 pages
Publisher: Candlewick (April 12, 2011)
Source: Received ARC from Teen Book Scene
Cover: Simple, clean and full or meaning. Everything in Iris's life blows away, just like a dandelion in the wind. It's perfect!
First Sentence: "A Craven County, North Carolina, woman is accused of ordering the beating of her 16-year-old niece as punishment for letting loose the family goat."
Mini-Review: Instantly gripping and beautifully honest, What Comes After explores life in it's darkest corners and manages to find it's way out again.
A gripping portrait of a teen’s struggles through grief and abuse - and the miraculous power of animals to heal us.
After her veterinarian dad dies, sixteen-year-old Iris Wight must leave her beloved Maine to live on a North Carolina farm with her hardbitten aunt and a cousin she barely knows. Iris, a vegetarian and animal lover, immediately clashes with Aunt Sue, who mistreats the livestock, spends Iris’s small inheritance, and thinks nothing of striking Iris for the smallest offense. Things come to a head when Iris sets two young goats free to save them from slaughter, and an enraged Aunt Sue orders her brutish son, Book, to beat Iris senseless - a horrific act that lands Book and his mother in jail. Sent to live with an offbeat foster family and their "dooking" ferrets, Iris must find a way to take care of the animals back at the farm, even if it means confronting Aunt Sue. Powerful and deeply moving, this compelling novel affirms the redemptive power of animals and the resilience of the human spirit.
Iris Wight's life is like a train wreck-- horrible, terribly depressing and so gripping the reader truly can't look away. Iris's strength is what makes this novel amazing and emotional. There were too many times when I wished I could pluck her out of the story and make her feel better. The ending and her growth is stasifying and realistic.
The law in Iris's life is that anything bad that can happen will happen. For most of the novel, Iris is rejoicing in the very small things in life because that's all she has. Literally, she doesn't have much besides the clothes off her back and a half empty stomach. Her plight is heartbreaking. One of my biggest worries was a male writer taking on the emotional state of a teenage girl but Mr. Watkins does this effortlessly and with a brutual honesty to match some of the best female writers. He knows what he's doing.
Both Sue and Book Allen are well thought out for being the "bad guys" and play their parts with equally parts glee and sorrow. They felt real and weren't all bad which is something that takes a lot of rounding out. The thing is, you could see both points of view and though they took it too far, they stayed true to their characters. I did feel that Iris's friend Beatrice fell flat compared to the other well-rounded characters. Her dialog seemed a bit forced and she fell into a non-realistic stereotype too often for my tastes.
Mr. Watkins writing is beautiful and very honest. Iris's voice comes easily and she's in such a dire situation that it's hard not to love her. I did find that at some points the story dragged a little and by the middle I wanted more action and to see the story progress. I guess I was hoping to get to the really bad parts quicker so that I could see the good parts. I would have also liked to see a bit more of her friend Littleberry so I could feel more of a connection to him. Iris needed more good people in her life!
What Comes After is truly a tale of growing in the worst possible conditions and learning to adapt in order to survive. Through everything Iris remains true to herself, no matter how hard or what the consciences. What Comes After is definitely worth the read but it's not for the faint of heart. Gripping, emotional and beautiful, it tells the story of a modern day heroine that learns to survive on her own.
So does this sound like a novel for you?
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