Tuesday, May 31, 2011

High School Pick: What Comes After

What Comes After
by Steve Watkins
Candlewick Press
352 pages

Sixteen year old Iris finds herself suddenly orphaned and homeless. First, she moves into her BFF Beatrice's home with her family and begins to grieve for her father. The stress of an outside child proves too much for Beatrice's family and they are forced to ask the state to step in. The state officials send Iris to live with her estranged Aunt Sue and cousin Book in North Carolina.

Poor Iris! There is nothing likeable or praiseworthy about Aunt Sue or Book. They are two of the most bitter, mean-mouthed, nastiest human beings since Uriah Heep appeared in Charles Dicken's David Copperfield.

Iris is alone and unloved. She has no time to grieve her lot; however, Aunt Sue soon puts her to work on their small farm caring for the milk goats. Aunt Sue mistreats and abuses the goats and their pet dog Gnarly. If it weren't for Iris, the animals would see no love or empathy.

When Iris eats only peanut butter sandwiches, Sue's rankles. She forces meat products on her neice, but Iris won't give up her vegetarian ways. The last straw comes when Iris lets the milk goats loose rather than have them butchered for meat.

Luckily, what comes after that gets better. The first 3/4 of this novel had me turning the pages--hoping that Iris would find some solace and peace--but I must warn readers, it was gloomy, disheartening, and pathetic. Iris is still able to find brief patches of sunshine and humanity.

In the end, she makes friends and survives despite the obstacles in her life.

Well-written and plausible, but sad. This is not a "feel good" story.

Recommended for readers grade 9-up. Violence, alcohol and drug abuse, physical and emotional abuse, adult situations

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

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