After the Fire

After the Fire

4.0 1
by Becky Citra

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Melissa is waiting for the "new life" that her mother Sharlene has promised her since a fire devastated their family. But nothing ever seems to change. Melissa has difficulty making friends at school, they never have enough money and her little brother Cody is a brat. When Sharlene announces that they will be spending the month of August at a remote cabin on a…  See more details below


Melissa is waiting for the "new life" that her mother Sharlene has promised her since a fire devastated their family. But nothing ever seems to change. Melissa has difficulty making friends at school, they never have enough money and her little brother Cody is a brat. When Sharlene announces that they will be spending the month of August at a remote cabin on a wilderness lake, Melissa is less than thrilled. But there is more to do at the lake than she expected, and she is surprised to learn that her mother knows how to paddle a canoe, fish and make bannock and s'mores. On an island in the middle of the lake, Melissa meets Alice, a strange girl who is writing a fantasy novel. Alice shares her tree fort on the island with Melissa, and while at first Melissa is attracted to Alice's strong personality and her stories of her "perfect family," she becomes increasingly uneasy around Alice. As Melissa's relationship with her mother improves and her confidence increases, she is able to hold her own with Alice and start to appreciate her own imperfect family.

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Editorial Reviews

CM Magazine
"Citra delivers a poignant, well-paced story about family and friendship…A delicious summer read...The book wraps with a satisfying and hopeful ending that affirms the human capability to persist and succeed through the hardships and difficulties that life may present. The book is an engaging story - an ideal recommendation for girls looking to read through the long summer nights. Highly Recommended."
Victoria Times-Colonist
"A thoughtful story about the healing power of the Canadian woods."
Booklist Online
"Melissa's angry resistance to her mom, and to her own memory, shakes up the familiar scenario of a kid trapped with an abusive adult, and readers will be caught by the realism of her first-person narrative…Along with Melissa's loneliness, there is always the beauty of the solitary setting and the truths she finds in the silence as she looks at the stars above the cliffs."
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"From the opening pages of After the Fire readers are intimately absorbed into eleven-year-old Melissa's world...In this unique and delicately written story of rebuilding, the parent-child relationship is explored in its complexity and the reader, like Melissa, is left feeling that families can heal and trust can be regained."
Quill & Quire
"Citra has produced yet another winning novel for young readers that is engaging, interesting and full of true to life situations."
Children's Literature - Cara Chancellor
Two years ago, a fire broke out in the trailer shared by Melissa, her little brother Cody, and her mother Sharlene. Melissa does not remember much about that day—cooking oil splattering, herself screaming—but she does remember that her mother was passed out drunk and only barely woke up in time to save her and Cody. Since then, Sharlene has given up men, alcohol, and cigarettes and is focused on rebuilding their lives. Her newest plan is a lake holiday, just the three of them. Melissa loathes the idea of a summer cooped up with her family, especially when she is none too convinced by Sharlene's recent life changes. Things seem to be looking up, however, when she meets a girl named Alice who lives in a cabin down the lake. Alice quickly becomes the best friend Melissa never had, sharing her tree house and making up adventures about an elfin princess. When those adventures become dangerous, though, Melissa begins to wonder about Alice's real life, and whether her own family might not be so bad after all. Citra creates a tale that on the surface is an entertaining read for younger audiences, but which also is ripe with deeper symbolism. The book functions best as a surprisingly complex study of mother/daughter relationships, as well as of the symbolism of fire throughout, from the original trailer conflagration to the nearly out-of-control bonfire Alice sets on the beach. Reviewer: Cara Chancellor
VOYA - Ann Reddy-Damon
Melissa is a survivor—of the kitchen fire that left her hands scarred, of her mother's alcoholism and recovery, and the humiliation she feels as the daughter of a custodian. Her plan for attending art camp ends when her mother decides to spend the summer in an isolated cabin at the lake. It is tough for Melissa to trust her mother who has plans for completing her GED while Melissa watches her little brother, Cody. Her mother's outgoing personality has always attracted attention and makes Melissa even more reserved. When an unusual girl named Alice befriends her, she decides the summer might not be so bad after all. But she remains suspicious. Citra captures the tenuous feelings of manipulation and trust, longing and belonging, that Melissa, like other preteens, experiences. Aimed at a middle school audience, this book reads more like a YA novel—what students describe as "real." Melissa faces tough situations and Citra portrays her emotional responses without using graphic language or sensationalized drama. While some American students might find the few subtle references to living in Canada confusing, I recommend this book to students looking for a mature glimpse at a preteen's life, without the gauze of a quick fix or fairy tale ending. Reviewer: Ann Reddy-Damon

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Product Details

Orca Book Publishers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.40(h) x 0.50(d)
690L (what's this?)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

At first, relief flooded her. Nobody in sight—just the bare gray rock gleaming in the hot sun. Then she spotted the blue canoe floating in the reeds. Before Melissa could turn around, someone waded out of the shade cast by the low boughs of a tree overhanging the water.

It was a girl in a red bathing suit, standing waist deep. She had long blond hair that hung down her back and a thin pointed face. She didn't look at all surprised to see Melissa. In fact, Melissa thought afterwards, it was as if she had expected her.

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After the Fire 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
When Melissa's mother tells her they will be moving, it doesn't come as a big surprise. They've never stayed anywhere very long, so she figured it was just a matter of time. The surprise is that they are moving to a larger apartment, but first they will be vacationing at a cabin on a lake. It all sounds exciting, but Melissa had her heart set on going to a summer art camp she heard about at school. What will it be like at some lonely cabin with just her mother and her little brother, Cody? Melissa isn't used to her mother doing anything with Cody and her. For years, all Melissa can remember is her mother's drinking and a string of her unpleasant boyfriends. Her mother has been promising that life was going to be different, but nothing seems to change. Memories of a terrible fire in their house trailer still give Melissa nightmares. It's true that since then her mother has stopped drinking, has a good job, and doesn't have a boyfriend. Maybe there is hope for a better life. When they arrive at the lake cabin, any worry about loneliness disappears when Melissa meets Alice. Alice's invitation to her secret tree house on an island in the middle of the lake gives Melissa plenty of activity every afternoon. She learns about Alice's family, her interest in fantasy and writing, and also how she seems a bit strange and mysterious at times. Some of their experiences together are a little unsettling for Melissa, but her desire for friendship causes her to dismiss the concerns as minor issues. After all, she should know - no one's life is perfect AFTER THE FIRE is a story of healing and change. Author Becky Citra shares the story of two girls whose lives have been complicated by tragedy. Each has learned to cope in her own individual way, and both must now learn to trust that things can change as life goes on.