After is suspenseful, literary, raw and heartbreaking. It's also both accessible and incredibly complex. Devon, the 15 year old heroine, is the mother of a "dumpster baby" and the book travels through her experience, beginning just after the birth and moving through her incarceration in a juvenille detention centre and the first stages of her case in court.
The book raises a lot of serious questions, the most serious being: what does Devon deserve?
She certainly gave birth to a baby that she attempted to dispose of in a public dumpster, but is knowing that enough? Isn't there more to the story? (Isn't there more to every story?)
After is a Point of View (POV) novel (as they say in school), which means the only perspective we get is Devon's, but she is a sympathetic and well-balanced character, neither villianized nor forgiven. To form an opinion about what Devon did, you have to take into account eveything the book tells you, from her status as a straight-A student to her limited sexual experience to her mental state during the pregnancy. Efaw presents a many-faceted look at Devon's life though a single perspective - no small feat.
The best thing this book is that Devon is just a regular girl. She's a regular girl in a terrible, complicated situation at least not entirely of her own making. Her story is about how she got there, and if you can't relate to how social factors, parenting, anxiety/denial and the myth of the American Dream might have conspired against her, you might not have much of a heart.
Devon story is a cautionary tale, but Efaw's made Devon an aspirational character and that's a pretty impressive thing. Worth reading, for sure.