An Ugly Story Beautifully Told

*** Contains Spoilers ***
I finished reading After, by Amy Efaw today. It’s a story about a 15 year old honor student and star soccer player who gets pregnant and then leaves her newborn baby in the trash. I thought the story (horrible though it was) was beautifully written and thought provoking. It starts with a half-dead Devon being discovered by police and taken to juvenile hall (via the hospital – she’s hemorrhaging from her undelivered placenta). At first, she’s in such a state of denial that she has blocked out what happened. Over a period of eight days, her memories come trickling back, and the floodgates open during her declination hearing (the DA wants to prosecute her as an adult, her lawyer argues to keep her in the juvenile system). I thought using the scenes where her lawyer interviewed her to get the back story out were very effective. I wondered if the “Quotable Quotes” spouting character, Karma, was meant to be a metaphor for, well, karma. She was the one character that just didn’t work for me. Karma struck me as being a conglomerate, rather than one character with several facets. When I read the last page, I said, “What?!” out loud. Why on earth would Devon want to plead guilty at the upcoming trial? It just seemed to me that it ran counter to her whole realization process during the hearing. Maybe what the author intended was that after all those months of denial, she was going to take responsibility, and her soccer coach did say that she never cut herself any slack. However, when Devon was listening to all of the defense witnesses testifying and she realized that people still cared about her, even after she’d done something so terrible, she started to feel hope. She started to appreciate the even the paltry sacrifices her mother, who had also been an unwed teen mother, had made for her, namely not putting her in the garbage. Arguably, her mother’s lifestyle choices were a strong contributing factor to Devon’s behavior. Devon remembered that after her baby was born, she had hoped IT was dead. She could easily have made that happen, but she didn’t. Yes, Devon was guilty of a lot of things, but attempted murder wasn’t one of them. In the end, I really wanted Devon to get the help she so desperately needed and be redeemed rather than crushed under the wheels of the system.