Book Review: After by Francine Prose

AfterTitle: After
Author: Francine Prose
Published: 2003
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 330
From: Barnes and Noble

This novel by young adult writer Francine Prose is very similar in theme to Todd Strasser’s novel The Wave. Where Strasser’s novel looks at a social experiment based on the actions of the Nazis, Prose’s novel looks at the actions of a school after a school shooting 50 miles away.

I appreciate writers like Prose. They take ideas most people don’t like talking about and weave them into stories that are easy for young adults to grasp. Prose did just that with this young adult novel.

Tom is a high school student at Central High School in Massachusetts. He lives with his dad, and has three best friends. After the shooting, the school immediately gets a grief counselor for students who need to talk through what happened. However, the counselor is more than he seems. He puts limitations on the students, constantly adding more and more every day. The school also sends out daily emails to the parents so they can keep up with the limitations.

Soon, though, students are getting in trouble. Three students are sent to rehabilitation camps, including one of Tom’s friends Silas. But, Silas doesn’t come back, and his parents are unconcerned.

Things get even more weird as the book progresses. A student from the school where the shooting occurred spoke with one of Tom’s friends, explaining that more and more students are disappearing, just like Silas. When Tom tells his dad and his dad’s girlfriend, they take a field trip to the little town 50 miles away. They discover an abandoned high school.

Stories like this are controversial at best. I love writers who push those controversial limits, especially when it comes to writing for those in their teens, or even younger. For Prose, she wrote a young adult novel about conspiracies, conspiracies that are discussed in the real world, on TV, all over the Internet. That’s what makes it so interesting.

However, just like with any young adult novel, my criticism pretty much is summed up that I wish it was written for adults. So many novelists write for young adults, and they all have amazing ideas and stories to tell, but I always wish those stories were written in an adult voice for adults to read. There are less limitations when writing for adults. Prose could have showed what happened at those camps, or how the changes in adults occurred from a teacher’s point of view. The psychological point of view is easier to show coming from an adult.

Despite my wish, I enjoyed the writing style and ease with with Prose detailed her story to kids. Books like this make me wish more kids would go out and read instead of playing video games. Hopefully, more and more kids will find novels like this and take them home.

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