Black Dog Books, August 2009, YA, 288 pages paperback
CJ has been banished to the country to live with his grandparents.
His attempt to fade into the background at his new school is thwarted when Luke Bennett, a boy suffering from a brain injury, befriends him.
Here he learns that no matter how hard you try to run from the past it is always right there in front of you, waiting.
Initially, this was a book that didn’t really grab me; Callum started out as an annoying and difficult character, whose actions and behaviours made no sense. Gradually, however, as snippets of the past were revealed (‘Before’), his attitude changed. I think about a third into the novel, I really started to enjoy it. I think Callum’s initial behaviour is necessary, as he grows a lot as a character through the book.
The story was suspenseful and well-written – even though Callum’s day-to-day life living with his grandparents and attending a new school were mundane, I continued reading so that I could find out what it was that had changed his life so much and why he was sent to live with his grandparents.
There are a lot of books in the teen fiction market with the premise of ‘A Big Bad Thing Happened and now everything has changed’. I think After pulled this off really well, without making it seem stale, and though I figure out the Big Bad Thing early on, there were so many other things that I didn’t see coming.
This book felt distinctly Australian, and I really loved that. Overall a fantastically written novel, which I think teenagers will relate to, and which packs a powerful ending.