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After Hardcover – March 18, 2003

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; 1st edition (March 18, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060080817
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060080815
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1.2 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,786,278 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 6-10-A school-shooting incident in nearby Pleasant Valley causes Tom's high school administrators to be worried about a ripple effect. A crisis counselor is hired and a watchdog atmosphere grows as the teens' privileges rapidly disappear. Tom and his sophomore classmates are annoyed but not overly concerned about the new security restrictions until they notice eerie disappearances of friends who fail to conform, including Tom's two best friends. The random drug tests, backpack searches, parental e-mail, and dress codes soon expand into mind-controlling daily assemblies, book censorship, and camps for "behavior" problems. After a tip from a Pleasant Valley basketball player, Tom is convinced that students everywhere are being sent away and hopes his father hasn't also been brainwashed via the e-mails from the school authorities. The pace picks up as Tom and friend Becca are caught trying to alert their fellow students to the menacing counselor and know that their lives are at risk. There is suspense in the threat, though readers never learn what has happened to those who disappeared, except for one student who "died." A prosaic style and simple dialogue provide reluctant readers with an opportunity to enjoy a lengthy, frightening story. More mature readers interested in school-violence stories might prefer Joyce Carol Oates's Big Mouth & Ugly Girl (HarperCollins, 2002).
Vicki Reutter, Cazenovia High School, NY
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Following a Columbine-like massacre at a nearby school, the students at Central High find their world turned upside down. The arrival of a "grief counselor" brings a new era of repression--no cell phones, no reading Catcher in the Rye, no hanging out at the mall. Even worse, students guilty of breaking the rules have begun to disappear--supposedly to a kind of detention camp called Operation Turnaround. Nobody ever comes back. Esteemed adult author Prose wants to make a political statement about the gradual process by which we lose personal freedom, but she runs into trouble. Caught somewhere between allegory, dystopian fantasy, and YA problem novel, her book never finds a home for itself. There are moments of real terror (the finale feels like Hitchcock's The Birds), but many of the best fantasy elements--brainwashing the kids' parents with e-mail--seem patently ridiculous in a realistic context. Yet, there is considerable appeal: the suspense builds effectively, and the archetypal conflict--good-hearted kids versus an evil principal--is always a crowd pleaser. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

Francine Prose is the author of sixteen books of fiction. Her novel A Changed Man won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and Blue Angel was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her most recent works of nonfiction include the highly acclaimed Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife, and the New York Times bestseller Reading Like a Writer. A former president of PEN American Center, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Francine Prose lives in New York City.

Customer Reviews

People say this book is 'scary', and 'it makes you think'.
I don't even think the author knew how to end this book...she just stopped the story and said they drove where?
Avid Reader
Again, not a word from parents, friends, neighbors about the student's disappearance.
Richie Partington

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Laura Lynn Walsh on May 11, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Although the writing style of this book is a bit mundane and blunt, the story itself sent chills up my spine - and that doesn't happen often to me.
The basic premise of the book is that, in the wake of Columbine and similar school disasters, school security is beefed up and students are subjected to new rules and regulations. Some of these regulations seem reasonable, but some, from the outset, seem odd. People are so nervous about violence in schools, though, that they seem to be willing to give up little things for the larger goal, supposedly better security at the school. Even though the kids are wary and nervous about what is happening, the changes are relentless and escalate.
Some classic methods of manipulation and intimidation are used and, in spite of the students' sense that this is wrong, everyone seems reluctant to challenge them and their parents seem to be all too willing to go along.
This is a compelling book - chilling and creepy. It is also a relevant book, especially in the wake of all the new regulations for flying and airport security.
But the book is also flawed. The writing style, as mentioned in the official review is prosaic and simplistic. And the motive behind the new regulations is puzzling. It is reasonable to expect that in the course of implementing new security safeguards that some people will get carried away with them and become too rigid and too enamored of the power to determine other people's lives. But, in this case, the primary mover behind the regulations is evil from the start. And, other than blind hate, we never know why.
The ending of the book, is, as mentioned by others, not completely satisfying.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By AmateurBookReviewer on January 30, 2005
Format: Paperback
Okay, first here's the plot: A Columbine-like incident happens 50 miles away from the hometown of a teenage boy, Tom, whose perspective we follow. It seems to shock everyone, and just when the local school's students begin to calm down, a "greif and crisis counselor" is appointed. The counselor, Dr. Willner, seems to be a little psychopathic when he starts setting strange laws and rules, for example, no wearing the colour red, and no hats of any kind. At first, no-one pays too much attention, but when a young girl breaks a simple rule, she seems to suddenly disappear. At first, we're told that she's moved away. However, Tom and his friends, Silas, Avery, and Brian are suspicious. Then, emails are sent out to all of the parents citing new laws, of which most of the students are unimformed about. The laws become stranger and stranger, and the punishments become stricter, until a law-breaking student is sent to a sort of detention camp, which we know nothing about. More students are whisked away, and never heard from again. I wont give away the whole plot, but many dark things pop up, like implied murder and concentration camps.

Now, the review: I can't complain about the writing, which I think was fine for my age level (I'm 13). The plot was fine until about two thirds of the way through, but after that it starts to drop, and to get a little boring. And the ending -- unless there will be a sequel -- is dreadful. It was as if the writer just came to a dead end and took the easy way out, leaving us confused; what happened to those who got whisked away? Why did all this happen? How could emails brainwash people? What's happening in other countries? How come the government wasn't doing anything? I could go on.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 27, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book is a wonderful way to get young people to feel deeply the horror of repression. Sure, they have heard about Nazi Germany, Stalinist U.S.S.R, maybe Pol Pot's Cambodia, and (I hope) McCarthy's U.S.A. But what does it mean? All of that happened in other places, other times, to other people. Francine Prose gives young readers a window into repression that is thoroughly personal.
For reviewers who were confused or disappointed by the book: Do you complain about Gulliver's Travels because there aren't, in real life, any tiny people, giants, or talking horses? View After as a metaphor, a well-written game of WHAT IF. What if the ones being repressed weren't Jews, Gypsies, Communists, dissidents, intellectuals, etc.? What if it were you and your friends? What if you were targeted for subjugation, or worse, not because of what you did, but because you were part of a group that was hated without reason by the people in power?
Yes, the action in After becomes more and more extreme and unrealistic, if you believe that Prose is talking only about early twenty-first century America. But things HAVE become that extreme elsewhere: constant surveillance, incremental loss of rights, increasing separation from the rest of society, mass incarceration and murder. People (once again: Jews, dissidents, and so on) have been sent away or have disappeared without arousing public comment from friends, neighbors, and co-workers, all of whom want or need to accept the official explanations. By the time too many are gone to ignore, the people who remain have been terrified into silence.
Don't expect a sequel from the author. This isn't really about one kid, family, or school. This is about what can, and does, happen.
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