October 26, 2011

What Comes After - Steve Watkins

Young Adult
Pages: 334
Publisher: Candlewick
Release Date: April 12, 2011

After her veterinarian dad dies, sixteen-year-old Iris Wight must leave her beloved Maine to live on a North Carolina farm with her hardbitten aunt and a cousin she barely knows. Iris, a vegetarian and animal lover, immediately clashes with Aunt Sue, who mistreats the livestock, spends Iris’s small inheritance, and thinks nothing of striking Iris for the smallest offense. Things come to a head when Iris sets two young goats free to save them from slaughter, and an enraged Aunt Sue orders her brutish son, Book, to beat Iris senseless - a horrific act that lands Book and his mother in jail. Sent to live with an offbeat foster family and their "dooking" ferrets, Iris must find a way to take care of the animals back at the farm, even if it means confronting Aunt Sue. Powerful and deeply moving, this compelling novel affirms the redemptive power of animals and the resilience of the human spirit.

I was blown away by the fierceness of this novel. It's hard to find a book as cruel as it is hopeful, especially when reading realistic fiction. Watkins created a wonderfully intricate plot out of several relatively mundane issues. But putting them together worked wonders. I've been reading a lot of books set in farms lately, but the way Watkins made it all come to life, his portrayal of the goats and the routines, were absolutely amazing.

Iris's voice was beyond astonishing. I'm always delighted to find the few gems in YA where the narrator's voice is what stands out the most. And this one was written by a man, so that makes it twice as astonishing. All the characters were deep and layered and exquisitely believable. Even the ones that are meant to be a villain-type figure were incredibly memorable.

Iris was smart and somewhat innocent and you can clearly feel you embarked this awful journey with her because you see her grow and change throughout the story. I have never admired a character the way Iris made me admire her. And there's something that just comes to life when a book has such beautiful writing. Everything just seems more relatable, even when the theme is as dark and hard to swallow as this one.

This is a hard story that shows the tough things in life and how to overcome them. A gorgeous and raw novel about growing up while life throws shit at you from every angle. And how we have the power to suck it up and keep going. This one will stay with me for a very long time. Lastly, if you love animals and have felt that special unspeakable connection one can have with animals, this is a book for you.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Say something...