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What Comes AfterReview - What Comes After
by Steve Watkins
Candlewick, 2011
Review by Amy Ridley
Jul 26th 2011 (Volume 15, Issue 30)

Iris just lost her father to an illness. She is living with her life-long best friend's family trying to deal with being alone. Out of the blue, Beatrice's family that promised her father they would look after her decides that they cannot fulfill that promise. Iris's mother left when she was five leaving her Aunt Sue as her only next of kin. Her aunt came up to Maine when she was born and Iris has not seen her since. Soon Iris is on a plane to North Carolina to live with Sue and her teen-age son Book.

Iris can tell from her first meeting with Aunt Sue at the airport that losing her father is the least of her problems. Sue is anything but warm and welcoming. It is made clear from the beginning that Iris is not welcome and that Iris is expected to do all the farm chores in order to earn her keep. Aunt Sue and Book are condescending to Iris and do not respect her. They taunt her for being a vegetarian and trick her into eating animal products. Her aunt also blows through the money Iris's father left for her. School is not much better. Iris feels like she on another planet instead of in another state. She does not fit in and the only person who tries to make her feel welcome is a boy in one of her classes that Iris feels she should keep at a distance. The only connection she feels at her new home is with the goats that her aunt owns in order to make goat cheese for the local farmers' market. Iris spends all of her free time with the goats and the family dog. She soon learns that her special relationship with the animals has infuriated her aunt and cousin. They begin to abuse the animals and threaten to slaughter some of them. In a desperate attempt to save the animals that she considers her family she manages to enrage her aunt who orders Book to teach Iris a lesson.

That lesson from her cousin lands her in the hospital and her aunt and cousin in jail. Iris's life is completely unraveling and she cannot even count on the best friend she left behind in Maine. She soon finds herself in a foster home. She is unable to trust these new people and is terrified of what will happen to the animals. She soon begins lying to everyone around her in an attempt to maintain control of her situation.

The topics in this book are difficult to read about but are handled with a tremendous amount of thoughtfulness. The animal abuse was extremely difficult to read but was absolutely necessary to tell the story. Iris's connection to these animals was central to this story and maintained a connection to her father who was a veterinarian. Her aunt's cruelty was brutal and provides the reader with the emotional pull that makes it unable to put this book down.

The foster care system is one that gets more attention for things that go wrong than when things go right with a placement of a child. This book helps show that there are foster families that want the best for the children they take in. Iris learns that even though her father is gone, there are people who want to be her family.

This book contains graphic scenes of animal abuse. This is appropriate for ages 13 & up.

 

© 2011 Amy Ridley

 

 

Amy Ridley received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Boston University


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