Author: Demitria Lunetta
Genre: YA contemporary, post-apocalyptic
Publication Date: June 25, 2013 (HarperTeen – North America)
Source: Publisher-provided ARC
Summary: They hear the most silent of footsteps.
They are faster than anything you’ve ever seen.
And They won’t stop chasing you…until you are dead.
Amy is watching TV when it happens, when the world is attacked by Them. These vile creatures are rapidly devouring mankind. Most of the population is overtaken, but Amy manages to escape—and even rescue “Baby,” a toddler left behind in the chaos. Marooned in Amy’s house, the girls do everything they can to survive—and avoid Them at all costs.
After years of hiding, they are miraculously rescued and taken to New Hope, a colony of survivors living in a former government research compound. While at first the colony seems like a dream with plenty of food, safety, and shelter, New Hope slowly reveals that it is far from ideal. And Amy soon realizes that unless things change, she’ll lose Baby—and much more.
☆: 4/5 – two words, people: zombie aliens.
Review: This book was a lot of fun. “In the After” has everything a paranoid post-apocalyptic/dystopian YA novel should have, plus it has a little bit of space opera mixed in for good measure. The only issue I had with this book is how it completely turns into a different creature in the second half the story, which definitely threw me for a loop. This book will definitely keep you on your toes the whole time, and just when you think you have everything figured out? Think again.
The biggest issue with this book: the pacing once we hit part two, when Amy is in The Ward. All of a sudden the frenetic, addictive pace that pushed me to read exactly half of the book within a few hours is gone, and is replaced instead with a desperate, amber-like slowness that Amy feels and that alternates between before going into The Ward, and being in the Ward. The pacing kind of completely goes off the tracks, but eventually, once you get used to the style of how Lunetta kind of reconfigures her entire story when Amy and Baby get to New Hope and all of the secrets that lay within, it gets back on track again. It’s just a lot slower. While I see why Lunetta did it (a great way to get us to see that New Hope is definitely not the paradise it seems), I still think there could have been some other way to be able to set the tone of this terrible underbelly of New Hope without breaking the really great pacing we saw in the first half of the book. This definitely brought down my enjoyment of the book by a few notches, and it just kind of threw me off balance in general.
However, the rest of this book is fairly awesome – the world, the characters (more on those later), and the sensory imagery were all really great. Lunetta really shines in the sensory imagery and worldbuilding department, though I do feel like she could have built up New Hope a little bit more. New Hope felt a little fuzzier in the sensory/wordbuilding arena compared to the rest of the After, as did the characters. The characters could have been built up a bit more aside from Baby and Amy – I felt like Rice and Kay were the most real of the characters there, but at the same time, not quite as real as Baby and Amy. And Mom? Well, Mom just felt very flimsy in general until we get the lowdown on what she’s really been up to since They came. Only then do we really get a good backstory – not only for the world, but for her character in general, and that felt a little too late in terms of timing. Yes, there were breadcrumbs dropped along the way in terms of paranoia and how something is definitely not right within the safe confines of New Hope when it came to Mom, but at the same time, I wish they’d been more substantial than what we got. What we got was adequate until the final Big Reveals of the book.
Also concerning the New Hope section of the world – the backstory we did get at the end still didn’t quite cover a lot of the strange quirks of this establishment. Why the color-coding? It made sense when explained by Rice, but not by much. Why the secrecy with the Guardians – especially when more are needed because they get wiped out so quickly? I feel like a lot more could have been explained, and since it looks like we’re getting a book two (yay!), I’m hoping that there will be more explanation somewhere in there when we get to Fort Black. That needed one more edit, I think, to really smooth things out at the ARC stage of things, and I hope by the time this gets pubbed, things will have been reinforced a bit more about the New Hope section of the world.
I can definitely say that Lunetta knows how to build sympathetic protagonists and main casts – I grew very attached to Amy and Baby very quickly. I can honestly say that was one of the quickest bondings on my part with a main cast in YA for the first time in a long while, and I was pretty sad when their adventures came to an end (at least in this installment) during the final pages of the book. And everything that’s in the After pre-New Hope is strong, shining, and absolutely addictive reading. I just wish there hadn’t been that kind-of disconnect with the pacing once we got to part two of the book.
Also, the big reveals? They’re worth waiting for. Trust me. Lunetta definitely gets a gold star for combining two wonderful genres – zombies and space opera – and making them work in a way that Tim Gunn would be proud of.
Final verdict? “In the After” combines a lot of genres that are starting to get a bit stale within YA and creates something totally new and fun out of them all. I definitely can’t wait for book two. “In the After” is out June 25, 2013 from HarperTeen in North America, so definitely be sure to check it out when you get the chance!