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Khanh the Killjoy

In the After

In the After - I'm not quite sure if I liked this book or not, so I'm going to give it a default "average" rating. It was an enjoyable read, the sci-fi and dystopian part were considerably more well-executed than so many other YA books out there, but I just didn't like it very much overall. Even if the world is well-fleshed out, and the idea of Them is certainly a different spin, there were still holes and contradictions concerning the characters, their behavior, and the lack of dimensionality.The concept: Them. Florae-sapiens. Well, that's something I haven't heard of before. A zombie apocalypse? Vampire apocalypse? All done before. The concept of these new creatures are certainly interesting, and I really enjoyed reading about them and their behavior. Flesh-eating aliens. Whoo! Their behavior was well-described, their scent, their actions, their methods of attack. Certainly not zombies in the traditional sense, but considerably more intriguing as a species in their biology and origin. And bloody. Oh so bloody!"They were faster than I’d thought possible, a blur of green, the color of pea soup. Glowing yellow eyes sometimes caught the light and flashed gold. The creatures pounced, not bothering to kill their prey before feeding. They ripped skin and flesh from their victims, who screeched in agony. The cries always brought more of Them, eager for their next meal."Amy: I am torn on my opinion of Amy. I feel like she should be a much more likeable, sympathetic character given what she's gone through, given the strength she's had to have to survive almost on her own all this long, but no...I feel...nothing towards her. I think she is too contradictory of a character to be real. I give a certain wiggle room for character development when reading YA fiction. Teenagers, actually, humans in general, are not predictable creatures. Throw them into a panic-filled, post-apocalyptic scenario and behavior becomes more unpredictable still. With that in mind, I do give my YA dystopian MCs some flexibility regarding their actions, and the character of Amy certainly stretches all my boundaries of what I consider acceptable with the character as she is written. Amy is supposed to be tough, skilled, adaptable. She is that. However, at times, she also exhibits certain behaviors that can only be described as TSTL. During the initial attacks, at night, what does she do?"The fourth night, I turned on all the lights in the house. My block was dark, except for our home, my home. No one else had electricity, but I still did...I didn’t know then that They were drawn to the lights, like moths to a flame."No shit, Sherlock. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that light draws attention. Not just from aliens, in general. Keep your head down, don't draw attention to yourself. Turning on the lights was a supremely stupid move, one of many Amy makes. For someone who claims to be battle-toughened and steeled for survival, and not soft-hearted in any way, Amy sure doesn't act like it. She follows a man home alone, and thankfully lives to regret it, adopts a toddler, who is another mouth to feed, another life to care for, then later on, adopts yet another stray who is a moron of the very highest order."Suddenly Amber shrieks.I turn to the closet, my heart pounding. Is one of Them in there with her?Something moves in the closet and I brace myself for a disgusting green head and glowing yellow eyes. Instead, Amber appears in the doorway, her face jubilant. She holds up a bag.“Prada,” she says with a grin, not bothering to whisper."I'm amazed Amy manages to live so long, given her choices. Although, admittedly she does learn from her mistakes, but it stretches the imagination that Amy could have survived for as long as she did. Things are also made easy for her, too easy. She's got running water, her dad was into solar power so her house has electricity. Her mom was paranoid so they had a pre-installed electric fence. All these help in her survival, but they don't make for a very believable story given the many happy coincidences that just so happen to help with her survival in the After.I also found her relationship with Baby, and the character of Baby to be unbelievable. Amy starts off barely knowing sign language, Baby starts off as a 3 or 4 year old toddler, and Amy manages to somehow teach them both to communicate in fluent ASL as well as nonverbal hand signals à la Helen Keller? No. Not believable. Baby also speaks and communicates far too succinctly and too intelligently for a 6/7 years old character. Given her lack of education, given their constant battle for survival, Baby's nonverbal speech and intelligence as characterized in the book is a far stretch.The book is in three parts. The first is simple enough, a description and retelling of their survival in Chicago in the After world. The second part was where things got truly annoying. Amy's character turns from practical, survival-minded into a petulant teenager determined to believe all authority figures are evil, sinister, phony. The bad guys walk around with an evil glint in their eyes, pretty much. She rebels against the system set up to ensure the survival and profligation of mankind. Fine, some ideas are pretty stupid, I wouldn't want a genetically-selected pre-planned pregnancy either, but she was rebelling waaaaaaaaaaay before she found out the batshit craziness of New Hope.The second is where things got messy. The flashbacks (flash-forwards?) drove me nuts. The narrative style was messy, things jumped all over the place. The pacing was too fast, things were thrown at us too quickly, and it got very confusing. The New Hope colony is an interesting premise, although I felt that was a bit of a stretch. It felt too organized to be established in such a short time. The systems set in place, the high level of organization, the rules...it feels more like an established system that's been in place rather than something thrown together haphazardly after a post-apocalyptic event.Although I'm happy that there was no insta-love, the romance feels kind of forced. I am glad that Amy recognizes Rice's faults and blindness, and didn't fall for him right away. She's even horrified by his beliefs."'He's a brilliant man. It's like he can see into the core of people, determine what we’re made of. He did it to me. He saw a lost, young orphan in me and decided I had the potential to be more,' Rice told me passionately. 'He's the one who recommended that Hutsen-Prime take me under their wing. He's the one who has checked on me over the years, made sure I had the best education, the best chance to succeed. And now he's molding New Hope. We have the ability to rebuild the world and make it better.'I looked at Rice, horrified. After the propaganda speech, I didn’t think I could stand to hear any more of the party line, even from someone I trusted."Ok...got it. So why fall for him at all? It feels like a forced romance just for the sake of having a romance plotline in the story. The two of them together do not ring true to me at all.Overall good read, didn't give me too much of a headache, and a lot better than some of the recent attempts at YA dystopia, even if it was by no means a great attempt. I'm still interested enough to read the next book when it is released.