Author: Steve Watkins
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Published: April 12, 2011
Genre: YA, Contemporary
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 hardly lives the life that every teen wants to live. After a tremendous loss, she's thrust into a world completely foreign to her that turns abusive, painful and emotionally destructive. So when things finally turn around for Iris and she's sent to another place that's quirky, but instills a desire for her to care for those animals she's left behind, no matter what. Is she brave enough to face the horrors she left, and can she do it for more than the animals...can she do it for herself?
I'm an animal nut. It's no lie. I have to cats and a dog, and if I ever won a million dollars, I'd start a cat sanctuary. But I digress. What Comes After combines all of my favourites into one neat little package - animals, the human condition and the desire to be better. With a pretty original premise in YA today that focuses on character development rather than romance, Steve Watkins has created a novel in What Comes After that just might have the power to transform our own agendas and make us thing beyond our own needs.
I have to be honest. What Comes After has all the makings of a great novel. Iris is a great character. She's relatable, caring and kind, and her innocence lends to the character development she faces through the novel. She struggles. She fails, and yet she has a constant desire to get back up again. The pain in this book is very raw and extremely tangible. She loses her father, faces adversity and yet she wants to find her way back to peace at all costs. Aunt Sue was a terrifying counterpart, and her foster parents added a hint of humour and quirk to an otherwise heart-wrenching tale.
What Comes After is not easy to stomach if you're in a feel-good movie. Yes, it has a message and reads extremely well, but it's not for the faint of heart. I cried. A lot. I give it a strong 4 out of 5, and I'd recommend it to fans of YA, especially those who enjoy contemporary fiction.
I received this ARC free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.