What Comes After

What Comes After

4.4 11
by Steve Watkins, Emily Janice Card

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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

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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.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Lisa Greenberg
This powerful novel, triggered by a newspaper article and transmuted by the writer's artistry into a story of hope and self-knowledge, speaks to all teens, even though many will never share Iris's experience. Abandoned by her mother at age five, close to her father until he dies, Iris at sixteen also suffers the betrayal of her best friend Beatrice's family. While Beatrice's parents promised her dying father to take care of her, the girls discover they are planning to separate. Soon Iris is sent to her mother's sister Aunt Patsy and her football-playing son Book. Life with Aunt Patsy turns out to be nothing like life with Dad. While the reader never understands why Aunt Patsy dislikes both Iris and her mother, Iris discovers relatives who do not welcome her, except for her inheritance, and actively work against her principles, such as vegetarianism and learning. She becomes more and more isolated, even from her distant friend Beatrice. After taking care of Aunt Patsy's goats for months, she realized the kids will be slaughtered, so she shelters them. Aunt Patsy forces Book to beat Iris until Iris ends up in a hospital and Patsy and Book go to jail. Iris, a gutsy girl, has to rebuild her life a second time, finally recognizing that to nurture the goats and build a community, she must find friends in her new school, discover the love in her ferret-crazy foster family, and pay off Aunt Patsy's debts. She does it all with passion and, in the end, joy. The reader, with Iris, grows in empathy and self-knowledge through this book. Reviewer: Lisa Greenberg
VOYA - Laurie Cavanaugh
Because a newspaper clipping at the beginning outlines the facts about what happens to sixteen-year-old Iris Wight in the first half of this first-person novel, the abuse by relatives assigned to care for her after her father's death does not come as a surprise. What comes as a surprise is how—after being uprooted from Maine and sent to live on a rundown farm with her aunt and older cousin in North Carolina's aptly named Craven County—Iris channels her emotions into caring for her aunt's neglected goats. Even after being savagely punished for protecting the animals, Iris risks everything she has left not to betray the trust she feels the goats have placed in her. The author draws on his work in the juvenile justice system to imagine Iris's detached observations of her own response to tragic loss and her placement with strangers, relatives of the mother who deserted her years before. Details about farm life, softball, goats, and cheese making, as well as high school (some underage drinking, pot smoking, and bullying), hold the reader's interest, but Iris's detachment keeps the reader—and the people who try to befriend her—at a distance. Although darker in tone, this story of farm chores, family dysfunction, perseverance, and hope may appeal to teens who like Dairy Queen (Graphia, 2006/VOYA June 2006) by Catherine Gilbert Murdock, as well as teens looking for unsensationalized stories of resilience after abuse. Reviewer: Laurie Cavanaugh
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—When 16-year-old Iris's father dies, she is sent from her suburban home in Maine to her aunt's goat farm in North Carolina. Her presence there is barely tolerated, and she is treated as little more than a slave. Aunt Sue expects Iris to rise early, care for the goats, and make the cheese that they sell in a local farmer's market. When school lets out, there are more chores, while her cousin Book goofs off with his buds. Iris doesn't really mind, though, because she has a passion for animals. When her aunt instructs Book to butcher three of the goats, Iris protests, and in retaliation she is brutally beaten. Aunt Sue and Book are arrested for the crime, and Iris goes to live with a local foster family. Now, though, who will take care of the goats? She feels powerless but knows that she has to do something, even if it means confronting her aunt. The story moves at a gentle pace, slowly pulling readers into Iris's cheerless world. The teen is realistically emotional and stubborn, and the secondary characters are well developed. Give this one to teens who enjoy dramatic plots with rays of hope at the end.—Heather Miller Cover, Homewood Public Library, AL
Kirkus Reviews

Abandoned first by her abusive mother and then by her father when he dies, 16-year-old Iris Wight is no stranger to loss. Family friends initially agree to care for her, but problems soon force Iris to leave her home in Maine to live with relatives in North Carolina. Life with her angry aunt and dangerous cousin quickly proves more than she can handle. Before Iris' arrival, her aunt's abusive behavior was focused on the farm animals, but as Iris begins to protest the inhumane treatment of the goats, her aunt's cruelty shifts toward her. The violence culminates in a horrific beating that lands Iris in the hospital and her aunt and cousin in jail, leaving Iris to navigate yet another change. She must learn to wade through the foster-care system and deal with animosity at school while trying to find a way to care for her beloved goats left back at the farm. While never gratuitous, violence is pervasive; difficult scenes include one that graphically describes a goat being bludgeoned to death, which may prove to be a turn-off for some readers. Watkins displays his expertise as he creates a heroine who is broken and yet refuses to stay down. Secondary characters are equally well-developed and engaging. Beautifully written, this story is an unflinching look at the cruelty of life as well as the resilience of the human spirit. (Fiction. 14 & up)

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Product Details

Brilliance Audio
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
6.50(w) x 6.20(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Steve Watkins, an associate professor at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia, has written several novels for young adults. He is a short-story writer and winner of a Pushcart Prize. He lives in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

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