After by Amy Efaw is a wonderfully well-written young adult book that explores the case of a teenage mother who gives birth and then leaves her newborn in a dumpster.
I want to start out by quoting something the author wrote in her notes at the end of the book. The author’s note is a few pages long and explains her inspiration for writing the book as well as the research she did. Amy Efaw writes:
“… in an attempt to alleviate the growing problem and give pregnant women a way to anonymously abandon their babies without fear of prosecution, Texas was the first state to enact what would later be termed “safe haven” legislation. That was in 1999, and since then, all fifty states have now passed similar legislation. Yet news outlets all over the U.S. are still reporting these “dumpster baby” stories with alarming regularity. So, why is this still happening? After attempts to answer that question.“
The novel starts out with a baby being found in a dumpster. Devon, 15, is soon after discovered to be the mother who abandoned her baby. Devon has, up until this point, been the picture perfect student with good grades and extra-curricular involvement — all this despite her less than perfect home life. Though the novel is written in third person, we follow Devon’s point of view through her experiences in court and then jail and thinking back to what has happened — all of which Devon has only a few memories of.
What I loved about this book was that Devon felt like such a real person. Her reactions to her environment and her actions were so genuine, and Efaw does a great job at making the reader feel for Devon. That’s not to say this is a book about seeing the mother as a victim or the prosecutor as callous but, rather, it’s about just getting into the thoughts and mind of the mother and trying to understand the motivations behind her actions.
After has an interesting psychological aspect to it (trying to determine why Devon did what she did) but doesn’t delve too deeply into the topic — just enough to add to the storyline. It is an easy read, but this does not in any way take anything away from the intensity or authenticity of the novel.
Jenny is a social worker in her late twenties who lives with her husband and Jack Russell Terrier in the central Florida area. In her “free” time she loves reading books of all genres. She also reviews books on her book blog TakeMeAway.