Book Review: In the After by Demitria Lunetta

In the AfterIn the After
Demitria Lunetta
HarperTeen, June 2013
ISBN 978-0-06-210545-5

From the publisher—

In what seems like an instant, Amy Harris’s life is changed forever. They arrive and quickly begin killing off humanity one by one. No one knows how they got here—and even worse, no one knows how to stop Them.

Marooned in a high-security house, Amy manages to stay alive—and even rescues “Baby,” a toddler she finds in an abandoned supermarket. For years they escape death, forging a bond as strong as sisters, until they are finally rescued and taken to New Hope, a colony of survivors living on a former government research compound.

On the surface, New Hope is the happy ending Amy was looking for. She’s even started falling for Rice, a handsome researcher she’s become close with at the facility. But then she makes a shocking discovery. And staying in New Hope could mean losing her freedom . . . or her life.

With pulse-pounding narrow escapes and horrifying twists of fate, In the After is an action-packed dystopian page-turner that will keep fans guessing until each secret is revealed and every lie is uncovered.

I like a decent night’s sleep as much as anyone else. In fact, I can get downright surly when I’m deprived but I don’t mind in the least when it’s a book that’s keeping me up because, after all, that’s a pretty good sign the story is truly enthralling. That’s exactly what I would call In the After, enthralling.

Post-apocalyptic and/or dystopian fiction is high on my list of favorites and I’m even happier when both subgenres are present which is the case here. There’s a very distinctive and abrupt shift from one to the other and also a shift in reading excitement, if you will, and that leads to the only reason I can’t give this a full 5 stars. Not only is there a shift in theme and intensity but there is also a drop in the effort spent in character development.

Amy and Baby are two of my favorite characters in memory. They’re both so intelligent and they make the best of a terrible situation, learning as they go how to survive and do so in a fair amount of comfort. The love that develops between the two girls who become as sisters is natural and heartwarming and they each know that they can depend on the other without question. Would Amy have grown into such a strong and empathetic young woman if disaster hadn’t happened? There is no way to know but, if there is ever a bright side to an apocalyptic scenario, it’s in the ways that some people rise above their circumstances. On the other hand, there is Baby who is just a toddler when Amy finds her and, while she is preternaturally aware of how to protect herself, it is certainly unlikely that she would have survived long without an older companion. The two girls need each other and the payoff is huge.

The second and third parts of the story are where I felt a lack. After pouring so much effort into helping the reader understand and care about Amy and Baby, character development of the new people in their lives is really pretty thin. I would have liked to know Vivian much better and, while I liked Rice to a certain extent, I also had some niggling doubt about him. Kay and Gareth are better defined but, again, I want to know more and, considering the ending, I can’t be sure I’ll get that in future volumes. Other characters are unlikable to varying degrees but, again, it would help to know more about them, why they are the way they are. The “event” is really not enough to excuse some of the behavior even though they certainly fit into the usual dystopian mold. Finally, the very lightweight romance felt to me like the author believed she had to throw it in and it really didn’t add anything to the overall story. It didn’t actually bother me but I could easily have done without it.

Having said all that, I really did love this book—it’s scary, nail-biting, thought-provoking, heartwarming and different from the pack—and it did indeed keep me up all night 😉 . Demitria Lunetta is a fine writer and I am going to have a hard time waiting for the next entry.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2013.