After the Fire

( 1 )

Overview

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 ...

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After the Fire

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Overview

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.
When she spoke, her voice was firm and confident. "Do you come in peace or war?" she said.
"What?" said Melissa. Her cheeks turned hot in confusion.
The girl's light hazel eyes starred at Melissa steadily. "Are you friend or foe?"

Melissa's mother's plans never turn out well, so why should a month at a remote lakeside cabin be any different? Desperate to escape her mother and little brother, Melissa canoes to an island in the middle of the lake, where she meets Alice, a strange girl who seems to have a perfect, happy life. Melissa is envious at first, and then uneasy, as Alice draws her deeper into a dangerous fantasy world where nothing is as it seems.

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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

  • ISBN-13: 9781554692460
  • Publisher: Orca Book Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/1/2010
  • Pages: 192
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.40 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Becky Citra is the author of more than a dozen books for young readers. When Becky is not writing, she gardens, hikes, skis and reads. Becky lives with her husband and daughter on a ranch where she has ridden and trained horses for thirty years in Bridge Lake, British Columbia.
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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.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 16, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Sally Kruger aka "Readingjunky" for TeensReadToo.com

    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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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