A gripping portrait of a teen’s struggles through grief and abuse - and the miraculous power of animals to heal us.
After her veterinarian dad dies, sixteen-year-old Iris Wight must leave her beloved Maine to live on a North Carolina farm with her hardbitten aunt and a cousin she barely knows. Iris, a vegetarian and animal lover, immediately clashes with Aunt Sue, who mistreats the livestock, spends Iris’s small inheritance, and thinks nothing of striking Iris for the smallest offense. Things come to a head when Iris sets two young goats free to save them from slaughter, and an enraged Aunt Sue orders her brutish son, Book, to beat Iris senseless - a horrific act that lands Book and his mother in jail. Sent to live with an offbeat foster family and their "dooking" ferrets, Iris must find a way to take care of the animals back at the farm, even if it means confronting Aunt Sue. Powerful and deeply moving, this compelling novel affirms the redemptive power of animals and the resilience of the human spirit.
To be honest, I hadn’t really read any reviews of What Comes After before picking it up. Even though it sounded like a gut-wrenching read, my interest was piqued when I saw it was partially about animals. I started and finished this book in the span of about 48 hours. Packed with emotion, What Comes After is a touching, page-turning read.
After her father dies, Irish Wight has to move in with relatives who are total opposites of her. Because Aunt Sue is Iris’s guardian, this book also deals with how legal systems can be problematic and maybe even corrupt or blind. Aunt Sue and Book have actually made this book quite thought-provoking for me. On the one hand, I resented them for they practices they used in earning money, but I also understood why the needed it. On the other hand, I hated the way Aunt Sue treated Book and Iris. I love it when a book gets me thinking this much.
This novel explores a topic which I think deserves a lot more recognition in YA literature, namely father daughter relationships. My father is awesome, and has taught me more life lessons than I can count. It was nice to see Iris acknowledge how great their relationship was and how big of an impact her father had on her life when so many parents in YA literature play a minimal role.
I loved Iris’s character. She quickly connected with her aunts dog and goats when she felt as though she had no one. I totally empathized her because I understand how relaxing it can be to connect to an animal when one feels as though one has very few friends. Even though some of her choices could have gotten her in trouble, I admired her determination to stand up for what she believed in. There is also just a little bit of romance in Iris’s life, which was well-handled and sweet.
What Comes After is a fantastic book on so many levels. My expectations were highly exceeded. If you are looking for a YA novel on animal issues and family relationships, I suggest picking up a copy of What Comes After on your next trip to the library or bookstore.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from a Teen Book Scene and the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. Thank you!