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4.1 79
by Francine Prose

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School has become a prison.
No one knows why.
There's no way to stop it.


School has become a prison.
No one knows why.
There's no way to stop it.

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
Blue Angel novelist Francine Prose speaks to younger audiences in this unsettling drama about one high school's experiences following a shooting at a neighboring school.

When nearby Pleasant Valley experiences fatal gun violence, Tom Bishop and the other Central High students endure a startling transformation in the name of "safety." With a newly hired guidance counselor -- a frosty Dr. Willard -- aboard, the school installs metal detectors, searches bags, and tests students for drugs, even outlawing the color red because of its gang associations. Students and staff feel jittery about the new procedures, but when parents start acting like "robots" (due to brainwashing emails from the school) and "troubled" kids begin disappearing into "rehabilitation" camps, things are clearly out of control. Thankfully, Tom's parents haven't been reading the emails, and the Bishops wind up hightailing it away from Central for good.

A novel that explores the relation between safety and paranoia -- extending it to a chilling conclusion -- After leaves readers with thought-provoking aftershocks. Prose's overarching message about where privacy and freedom begins and ends is timely, while Tom's confused voice is the perfect narration. A useful springboard for talks about a tough issue. Matt Warner

Publishers Weekly
After a shooting takes place in a Massachusetts high school, a group of friends grow uneasy as the extra security precautions become more and more extreme. PW's starred review called this "a chilling examination of controlling forces undermining individual rights. Sure to spur heated discussions." Ages 10-up. (May) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Following a student shooting rampage at a nearby school, Tom Bishop and the students at Central High are shaken but unaware of the dramatic changes they will soon face. Dr. Willner, a grief counselor, arrives and establishes an increasingly complicated list of rules in the name of school safety. Metal detectors and random drug tests are followed by more extreme restrictions. Certain books and music are barred, and student work is censored. Some students sent to reeducation camps to learn more socially appropriate behaviors instead die during escape attempts. Teachers and even the school's principal disappear after failing to report student infractions to Dr. Willner. Tom longs to return to life as it was before the shootings, but he cannot escape the deadly aftermath. This remarkable book compels the reader along as events quickly grow to a more disturbing level. The balance between individual rights and the safety of the larger group is an important topic, particularly in post-September 11 America. This book is National Book Award finalist Prose's first young adult work, and it is an excellent entry into the genre. The characters are realistically drawn, and their escalating loss of freedom is told in a believable way. Vivid and memorable, it moves at a fast pace despite its length. It would be an excellent candidate for discussion in a reading group. Highly recommended for high school and public libraries, it is a book that readers will not soon forget. PLB
— Sherrie Williams
This suspenseful story takes place in a high school after a violent shooting incident (like the one at Columbine High School) occurs in a nearby community. Tom and his friends—called the smart jocks—are the main characters, each one reacting quite believably to the changes in their school after this event. The security is immediately tightened: backpacks are searched, as are lockers. A new person called a grief counselor takes charge and makes new rules. Dissent is not allowed. Random drug tests begin. A favorite teacher disappears. Students who don't cooperate with the authorities are taken away to special camps called turnaround centers, and they are never heard from or seen again. Parents get nightly e-mails from the school and they change personalities—are they being brainwashed somehow? Frequent references are made by Tom and his friends to the movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers because the teenagers begin to feel there has been an invasion of sorts...they don't understand what or how. Paranoia builds and the teenagers learn slowly that things are actually worse than their worst fears. The story works, even if in the end it seems closer to SF than to realistic fiction—well, a Ray Bradbury kind of SF. The kinds of rules at the high school are ones that most teenagers would recognize as familiar. There is no reference to 9/11 and Homeland Security, so I'm not sure if Prose is trying to make a larger point about loss of civil liberties in the name of security and where that could lead eventually. She keeps this tightly in the realm of high school culture and high school authority—controlling adolescents. Of course, that is a theme with enormous appeal for most YAs. KLIATT Codes:JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2003, HarperCollins, 330p.,
— Claire Rosser
School Library Journal
Gr 6-10-A school-shooting incident in nearby Pleasant Valley causes Tom's high school administrators to be worried about a ripple effect. A crisis counselor is hired and a watchdog atmosphere grows as the teens' privileges rapidly disappear. Tom and his sophomore classmates are annoyed but not overly concerned about the new security restrictions until they notice eerie disappearances of friends who fail to conform, including Tom's two best friends. The random drug tests, backpack searches, parental e-mail, and dress codes soon expand into mind-controlling daily assemblies, book censorship, and camps for "behavior" problems. After a tip from a Pleasant Valley basketball player, Tom is convinced that students everywhere are being sent away and hopes his father hasn't also been brainwashed via the e-mails from the school authorities. The pace picks up as Tom and friend Becca are caught trying to alert their fellow students to the menacing counselor and know that their lives are at risk. There is suspense in the threat, though readers never learn what has happened to those who disappeared, except for one student who "died." A prosaic style and simple dialogue provide reluctant readers with an opportunity to enjoy a lengthy, frightening story. More mature readers interested in school-violence stories might prefer Joyce Carol Oates's Big Mouth & Ugly Girl (HarperCollins, 2002).-Vicki Reutter, Cazenovia High School, NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A disturbing foray into a contemporary America where protection and safety have become labels for repression and murder. In the wake of a killing spree at a school 50 miles away, rules begin to change at Central High. Supposed grief counselor Dr. Willner replaces the old principal, and immediately backpacks are searched, books banned, and clothing regulated. The color red is strictly forbidden (because the killers at the other school wore it), and when one girl refuses to remove the red ribbon she wears in memory of her deceased brother, she is sent away from school-and never returns. Other students and one teacher also disappear as Dr. Willner becomes ever more sinister. "Bus TV," broadcast during the ride to school, shows revisionist history. Parents neglect to protest even their own children's disappearances, seemingly because they have been brainwashed by incessant e-mails from the school administration. Across the country, detention camps have been set up where entire groups of teenagers are sent and possibly murdered. Ongoing references to Stalinist Russia and to the movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers supply metaphors for the unrecognizably evil and passive adults. The end offers no hint of what will happen next as the remaining main characters flee the town in fear for their lives. Because the narrative is kept faithfully inside the protagonist's mind, readers are skillfully left just as unsettled, frightened, and confused as he is himself, about both the future and the nature of what exactly is going on. Could have been even scarier if the administrative power had snowballed rather than possessing total control from the beginning, but still an unsettling piece for modern times.(Fiction. YA)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
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Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.12(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
13 Years

Meet the Author

Francine Prose is the author of twenty works of fiction. Her novel A Changed Man won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and Blue Angel was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her most recent works of nonfiction include the highly acclaimed Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife, and the New York Times bestseller Reading Like a Writer. The recipient of numerous grants and honors, including a Guggenheim and a Fulbright, a Director's Fellow at the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, Prose is a former president of PEN American Center, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Her most recent book is Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932. She lives in New York City.

Brief Biography

New York, New York
Date of Birth:
April 1, 1947
Place of Birth:
Brooklyn, New York
B.A., Radcliffe College, 1968

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After 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 79 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Sam R- After- Have some books every just jump out at you? Don¿t they make you want to never stop reading? One of these books is After by, Francine Prose. It happens to be one of my favorites. As soon as you start reading you are sucked in. After has an unbelievable plot, deep characters, and twists and turns on every flip of the page. Boom! As soon as you open the book you are dropped into a hectic high school classroom. Everybody¿s cell phones are buzzing. Nobody knows what is happening but soon as they do they will wish they had never of heard. There had been a school shooting at a nearby high school. There was many fatalities including the gun men. This later affects their school. The state tries to deal with it by sending a crisis counselor to the school. But he doesn¿t live up to his title. He is more of a mind controlling evil person that takes over the school with gloom and despair. Soon things go crazy, the school security becomes tighter than one of an airport. Students get in trouble for the most ridiculous things. Soon some start to disappear. With everyone being watched no one is sure who they can trust. One of the students under the eye of the ¿crisis counselor¿ is our main character Tom. His new goal at school is to stay out of trouble. Along with his friends Silas and Brian he tries to understand why the school is turning into a prison and stay out of the light. I like these three characters. Tom is sort of the leader the one with the plans, guts, and the most smarts. Brian would fit well under the trusty sidekick category. He is very loyal to his friends and watches their backs. Silas, well what can I say about Silas. He is very paranoid about everything. I think he is mostly this way because he is a drug addict. These friends call themselves the ¿smart jocks¿. These three characters fit together perfectly. Although I would have to say my favorite is Tom. He is also the most similar to me. I always try to be the leader, I get pretty good grades, and I like to play sports. After is phenomenal book with an outstanding plot line, complicated characters, and makes you long to know what will happen next. It is one of my personal favorites that can put your life in perspective. It is an exciting drama and mystery that anyone can get into. This is a must read that reached out to me. I bet you will want to read it over and over again.
Elijah-James More than 1 year ago
I was pretty dissapointed with this book and also by all the "good" reviews it had. I didn't even finish the book. I was about two chapters away from the end before I said, "Alright, I've had enough." In my opinion, everything about it was unrealistic. I understand schools have to take extreme measures when a school shooting occurs only 50 miles away, but this would never happen. I'm sorry if you liked this book and you disagree, I'm just trying to help somebody out who was planning on reading this. If you like unrealistic books, you'll love this one. But I would never recommend this book to anybody (unless I didn't like them.)
thight217 More than 1 year ago
One interesting thing about the book After is that Tom, the main character, does not go to the high school that had the shooting. In fact he went to a school 50 miles away from Pleasant Valley, the school with the shooting. Tom goes to a high school called Central outside of Boston Massachusetts and when the shooting happens at Pleasant Valley Central takes multiple actions to keep that from happening at their school. One action was bringing in a grief and crisis counselor named Dr. Willner who has made Central seem like a complete prison with guards, metal detectors, random drug tests, and all new rules such as not being able to wear or read certain things! I really enjoyed reading this book because of the emotions expressed by Tom and his friends! Mrs. Prose made the book very intense with the views of the students and their feelings about Pleasant Valley and Dr. Willner. The one thing I didn't like about the book is she made some characters seem vacant minded about the situation going on at Central. This novel made me think a lot about how much family and friends mean to people because Tom lost his mother and now that his father is dating Clara he doesn't have a lot of time for Tom and also when he finds out that Silas could be sentenced to the highest extent of the law for doing drugs you can only think of how depressed Tom and the rest of the gang become! Over all I really enjoyed reading After by Francine Prose because it was very thought provoking and very deep! If there was ever a sequel to this book I would love to read it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
somebody_who_is_bored More than 1 year ago
The novel After is a gripping novel by Francine Prose. It's a book that you can never let go of. The novel is full of suspense and the plot has twists and turns. After tells about a school, Pleasant Valley, however, most of the major conflicts are happening at a school fifty miles away called Central High School. Cell phones are ringing and people are frantic about their children. Central High School is a school fifty miles away from the shooting site. Central High School hires a grief and crisis counselor, Dr. Willner, who ruins and enforced the lives of the students at Central. The major action and conflict with Dr. Willner revolves around four friends: Tom Bishop, Brian, Avery, and Silas. There many twists and turns in the plot of After. I thought After was a novel with a great plot, very descriptive settings, and interesting characters. The author, Francine Prose, was very good at planting the visual images of the novel in our brains. When I was reading this book I couldn't put it down because of the vivid scenes in the book. To me, After was like a movie inside my head. I highly recommend this novel to anyone. It is very entertaining, gripping, and descriptive. I can truly and fully confirm that After is a great novel for everyone to read and enjoy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
the book was ok. I still would have liked to know of what actually happened to the kids from different schools.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I got this book looking for a thrill with a great ending that u never saw coming but this book did not have that. the writing was good, the charaacters were good and the begginign and middle were very good but the whole time i was reading i was so excited for that ending that i never would have guessed...but that didn thappen. the ending didnt explain anything and just left you hanging with tons of questions that should have been answered.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
awsome book...i would recommend it but i felt kind of sad at the end like what happaneds know...what happaneds to the school and the chracters parents...i feel there could have been a litlle more writing tords the end or at least a second book cause i really enjoyed it. I liked the fact that it was a thriller but there was still comedy and romance.
Paige_Morgann More than 1 year ago
I think after was a really great book. it was deff a page turner. I kept reading the whole way through but i felt when it was finished i was just left hanging. i wish it ended a little better. but other than that great let down it was a amazing book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
donnareads911 More than 1 year ago
After was a very quick read, easily finished in a short amount of time but what I found was the chilling was the realism. Yes, the topic and the way it's written would appeal to teens, ages 15-18, but parents should be encouraged to read it first to screen it. (I tend to do this for my children, just because I'm, well, the mom). I couldn't put the book down, and read it during a medical procedure so it is very easy to follow. I could see how it would come about after the Columbine tragedy, but it plants a seed in the reader's mind, like could we really be so controlled by mail, email, news, etc.?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
im not the reading type.. but i just couldnt stop readin .. in colombia i could imagen my self in that situation. i enjoyed every min of it even though i think the ending could of been different
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
According to the summary, this book did not really seem too interesting. I somehow started it, and realized it was very, very unique. The story is so plausible and it makes you have to read more of it.
A_FELLA_SO_HEARTLESS More than 1 year ago
Even though I'm just a boy living in the ghetto of Chicago and i never read, this book got me into reading. It's THAT GOOD. I just loved the emotion from the characters from the fear of the students at Central High to the love between Becca and Tom. So many high schoolers can somehow relate to this story. its easy to compare to because it somehow teaches how there are changes and how far it gets taken. And how major changes can make students react in different ways. Also, how easy something can be taken away from you. You learn to aprreciate what you got before its gone. It's just great and perfect. Because you never know whats going to happen After.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I believe this book was amazingly gripping, kind of like the murder mysteries. I would definitely recommend this book to anybody, though I do not recommend for younger children.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The plot was suspenseful throughout the entire book. The characters in the book are in high school facing harsh rules that they need to follow because of a school shooting that happened near their town. Certain colors couldn't be worn, specific items of clothing were banned, and it affected the lives of the people in this high school because they felt like these rules were taking over their lives. I really enjoyed this book because you could relate to the kids attending this high school. Even if you've never experienced school shootings in your state, or unfair rules that you needed to follow, you could still relate to the students. You knew how they were feeling at every moment, and you actually felt like you were at the high school too, having to follow the same rules they were. The ending kind of disappointed me though. It left you hanging, and made me want to know what would happen next. Maybe that's a good thing, but I was so into the book that I wanted to know what happened to the characters after! This was a quick read but a very intriguing quick read. People, whether they're in high school or not, will find this book to be interesting and full of surprises.
Guest More than 1 year ago
At the beginning of After by Francine Prose there are teens in a classroom in Central High School and in unison, their cell phones went off. People were calling them to inform them that there were shootings at a school fifty miles away from them. The school that the shootings were at was Pleasant Valley High School. Central High School started getting very cautious to make sure that the shootings didn¿t happen at their school. The school started making a lot of new rules, including random drug tests, not being able to wear red, and no cell phones in school. In one of the random drug tests, Tom¿s friend was tested and they figured out that he had been doing drugs. Tom, along with three friends, plays basketball for Central High School. Tom¿s friend is no longer allowed to be part of the basketball team. The students do not agree with the new rules. Read the book to figure out what the students do! One thing that I disliked about After was that there were too many new rules and it was hard to follow all of them. Every day there would be like two new rules and I didn¿t know that there were new rules. One thing that I liked about the book was that there were five main characters and you could easily distinguish the difference between them. After by Francine Prose is not part of a series. The people that would enjoy reading this book would be teenagers. Teenagers would enjoy it because it is about a thing that could happen to them at any time. It could happen to any school and it really shows you how much of an impact it puts on other people.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you like bone chilling stories about murder, trickery, and what's supposedly hypnotism, then this is the book for you! It's mind bending and has a complex structure for only the most hardcore readers. Seriously... READ THIS TODAY!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought After was going to be a really interesting read, but it wasn't that great. I think most of the book was unrealistic. Also, the author made the story more boring by sticking to one phrase. Meaning, she always wrote 'And Silas said' or 'And Avery said'. She should've used differnt tags. It wasn't a completey horrible book, but it wasn't as great as I anticipated it to be.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was an easy read, but not as exciting as it sounds. The begining was realistic and kept your interest, but after that it was undeveloped characters trying to figure out an undeveloped puzzle. The end left you with no explanations and a lot of plot holes. As a teen reading this in Honors English, I thought it was rather pointless.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was a satisfying one. Really, it was. It held my attention the whole time. There was always something that the author wasn't telling me, and I was always keen on finding out what that was. And the plot was amazing! It intrigued me a lot. Everything was just written so well.