If you’re looking for something a bit different in your young adult dystopian travels you might want to check out In the After by Demitria Lunetta. It’s a great little blend of classic dystopian, survivalist fiction and some fairly fresh ideas and concepts – which is nice when you consider just how many young adult dystopian novels we’re seeing these days. Each one is pressed to set itself apart and In the After certainly does that.
The book follows a teenage girl named Amy who has been surviving largely on her own after an apparently alien invasion. It reads almost a bit like a zombie book because though there are supposed to be aliens out there Amy and other survivors have never seen anything smart enough to conquer – only these terrible creatures that track their prey by sound alone. Luckily for Amy, her father was a bit of an Eco warrior and their house was well suited to recycle water, operate basic electronics on solar power, and keep her and the young girl she found and took in fed off the food in the garden. Amy and Baby – the little girl she found and raised – live together in total silence, fearful that any small sound could bring the aliens to their doorstep. But the aliens aren’t the only dangers out there. People can be just as bad. And though Amy and Baby manage to survive a good three years on their own all good things must come to an end.
After the two are chased away from Amy’s family home they are rescued by a group of people in what seems to be an ideal community. In what is a fantastic spin on the overdone religious cult storyline this community is a bit cult like. But they do not worship a god – they worship science and the promise of a rebuilt world. In some ways it’s very Giver-esque with children assigned to jobs and those in society who are generally useless cast out. There are strict rules about families reproduction, and education with everything focused on advancing humanity and reviving society. Amy has always been a very strong-willed and smart girl and she’s more than proven that she can take care of herself in the crazy world outside the safety of the community. What she begins to find out, though, is that she may not be able to care of herself and Baby inside.
Lunetta makes some really great choices in how she delivers her story and the plot excels with it’s various twists and turns both before Amy and Baby find refuge in the community and after.
In particular, I like that the author doesn’t give the reader any really advanced clues when it comes to the truth behind the invasion. And she doesn’t present us with perfect characters. The world she builds is a little unbelievable at times but it’s not hard to get into the story and wonder what will happen next.
No matter how you look at the book, though, the strongest part is the main character – Amy.
In the ‘after’ – as Amy considers the world after the invasion – Amy learned to be very self sufficient. And she didn’t learn everything all at once. She was lucky that her father was generally pretty prepared and left her in a house accustomed to this sort of world. And I like that. I like that Amy wasn’t just this super girl who knew what to do. In the early days she was just a sad, lonely girl who retreated into herself. After she found Baby things changed. She learned to take care of herself and another. She taught Baby sign language and developed a special sort of sign language for them when the basic ASL books she had weren’t enough. Sometimes she seems a little too extreme. But I think that anyone who went from surviving on their own from a young age to being forced back into a rigid, uncompromising society would probably be much the same. And who cares? It’s always nice to have strong female characters.
The reader discovers all the secrets and horrors of the world and of the community as Amy does and there seems to be quite a lot to discover. How Amy reacts, the relationships she builds, and the way the community is effected and operates are all fairly well developed. I know that I was so drawn into all of it that it took me less than a day to finish this book because I wanted to know everything as soon as I could.
I am confident that anyone else would feel quite the same. Like pretty much every book ever written – it’s not perfect. But it’s a really fun read. And it sets itself up for some interesting sequels. There is a whole lot more of this world to discover, a whole lot more secrets to reveal. I look forward to the chance to find them out as Amy does.