"You must become so free that your very existence is an act of rebellion." -Albert Camus
3.5 flesh eating stars.
Imagine having to live in silence. You must walk without shoes, keep your lips pressed tightly together and breathe as shallowly as possible. Imagine having to do this for hours, then days, and then years. Imagine living in constant fear that if you breathed too loudly, if you dropped something, if you even sneezed, then you would die. Could you do it? Forever?
In the After is about the destruction of humanity as seen through the eyes of a teenage girl. Humans have been killed off by creatures called “Florae” which annihilated entire cities in the span of months. Florae feast on human flesh and if you meet one, you either kill it or it kills you. Before, Amy was a normal- if not ambitious - tween girl, doing well in school and preparing for her future which would probably have been in politics. After, she is a survivor, living day by day scrounging for food and keeping to herself. She finds herself the reluctant “older sister” of a toddler she names “Baby.” Life in the After is difficult, and staying alive becomes even trickier after Amy makes an error in judgment.
One of the best aspects of this novel is Amy Harris’s characterization. From the beginning, she is more intense than the typical 16-year-old girl and brief glimpses into her past show that she has always been an intense student and child. This intensity, which led her to earn great grades in school, is what also helps her stay alive. She’s quiet, resourceful and observant, which also leads to her being a quick learner. She is not the most empathetic character, nor the easiest to like, but given the circumstances her personality is necessary. I was glad that Lunetta created a character focused on staying alive and not focused on getting people (or readers) to like her.
The mystery that appears halfway through the novel is where I actually began to really enjoy myself. It’s interesting because most people seemed to have enjoyed the first half, which resembles a survivalist apocalypse novel, but I preferred the second. Watching Amy unravel the mystery of the path month that she has been unconscious/out-of-the-picture was, in my opinion, handled delicately. I am a huge fan of slow reveals and each chapter led to more and more build up.
Granted, the “big reveal” at the end became obvious, but that didn’t deter me from my enjoyment because it became more important to see how Amy would take the development, not how I would react to it.
The characters are not as fleshed out as they could’ve been. Amy was the only one I felt like I really understood, but Baby is in most of the novel and, other than her “strange-ness,” I never got the opportunity to know. Other examples of this are all of the characters that are introduced in the second half of the novel. I never felt as if they had their own unique voices, with the exception of Dr. Reynolds – and even then, while his plans were made clear, his intentions or motives never satisfied me.
Because the characters felt 2D, the romance never struck a chord with me either. But at that point, the romance was so low on my list of priorities for this book that the fact that it felt a bit shallow didn't bother me.
And, since this is an audiobook, a rating of the reader would be appropriate. This audiobook was read by Julia Whelan, who I thought did an extraordinary job. I am looking forward to hearing her again in the next novel, In the End.
Overall, I feel this was more successful as an audiobook than it would have been had I read it. The build up and reveals are perfect for narration and the story is the kind that you would enjoy listening to late at night when you find yourself most susceptible to fear.