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WHAT COMES AFTER by Steve Watkins

WHAT COMES AFTER

By Steve Watkins

Age Range: 14 & up

Pub Date: April 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-7636-4250-1
Publisher: Candlewick

Abandoned first by her abusive mother and then by her father when he dies, 16-year-old Iris Wight is no stranger to loss. Family friends initially agree to care for her, but problems soon force Iris to leave her home in Maine to live with relatives in North Carolina. Life with her angry aunt and dangerous cousin quickly proves more than she can handle. Before Iris’ arrival, her aunt’s abusive behavior was focused on the farm animals, but as Iris begins to protest the inhumane treatment of the goats, her aunt’s cruelty shifts toward her. The violence culminates in a horrific beating that lands Iris in the hospital and her aunt and cousin in jail, leaving Iris to navigate yet another change. She must learn to wade through the foster-care system and deal with animosity at school while trying to find a way to care for her beloved goats left back at the farm. While never gratuitous, violence is pervasive; difficult scenes include one that graphically describes a goat being bludgeoned to death, which may prove to be a turn-off for some readers. Watkins displays his expertise as he creates a heroine who is broken and yet refuses to stay down. Secondary characters are equally well-developed and engaging. Beautifully written, this story is an unflinching look at the cruelty of life as well as the resilience of the human spirit. (Fiction. 14 & up)