Thursday, October 4, 2018

Review: After the Fire by Will Hill

by Will Hill
Sourcebooks Fire
Oct. 2, 2018
YA Contemporary
464 pages

Before, she lived inside the fence. Before, she was never allowed to leave the property, never allowed to talk to Outsiders, never allowed to speak her mind. Because Father John controlled everything—and Father John liked rules. Disobeying Father John came with terrible consequences.

But there are lies behind Father John's words. Outside, there are different truths.

Then came the fire.


Intense and powerful, this story weaves through emotions based on belief, control, family, religion, survival and lies.

Moonbeam has lived most of her seventeen years inside the compound. Her father died when she was younger. Her mother was banished only a few years before. The fence and gates protected her and her Brothers and Sisters from the evils of the Serpent beyond. They did as the lord wanted and tried to follow his rules. She tried to stay pure until she noticed the lies. Then, came the fire. Now, she's trapped again and must figure out where the truth in the past as well as the future lies.

I had read the blurb but was not prepared for this book. It is raw and hits basic questions about belief, manipulation and greed straight on. Moonbeam is a wonderful character full of strength and flaws. Sometimes she comes across a bit too clever considering her predicament, but it's not enough to snag the story. Through a trade-off between 'before' and 'after', what she experienced and what now awaits her sink in and grab. Each scene from her past and the truths it holds dribble in just at the right time as she tries to work out what happened to her and how to deal with it while gazing upon a future she never guessed she'd ever have. The author does a fantastic job pacing this just right. It keeps the tension high while allowing the emotional impact to bear down full force. And the read hits home.

Moonbeam's depictions of her past illustrate clearly how belief and trust can be twisted under the right circumstances. It shows how good people can be manipulated into something they wouldn't want to be if they realized what was going on. The scenes are harsh and cruel, but still, the novel enables the reader to understand how the circumstances can come about.

This isn't a light read but digs deep and leaves tons of food for thought. I wouldn't recommend this for younger YAers, since it addresses some pretty tough material and cruelty. But it's not a read to avoid by any means. The messages are harsh yet full of hope and make it clear what is acceptable and what not. The reader comes away thinking, and this is exactly what should happen.  I highly recommend this read to ages sixteen and above.

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