After by Francine Prose

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After by Francine Prose

Prose, Francine. After. Harper Teen, 2004. ISBN 978-0060080839. 352 pp. $9.99

When a shooting takes place at Pleasant Valley, a high school fifty miles away, Central High and it’s surrounding community gets an “it could happen here” wake-up call, and a frightened school administration hires psychologist Dr. Willner to come in and crack down on the students. The institution of security checks, locker searches, dress codes, and a host of unfair new rules create some dissent, but smart jock Tom Wilson struggles to keep his nose clean, especially when disobeying and disruptive students begin to disappear, supposedly sent to a boot-camp-style place to work on their self-discipline and respect for authority. A little investigation reveals that the students of Pleasant Valley have all but been eliminated, and it seems Central is next.

Rather implausibly, it turns out that parents are being brainwashed to accept these rights-violating policies through the nightly emails sent from Dr. Willner (apparently, everyone has a PC at home). Luckily, Tom’s dad has viewed the emails as a waste of time, instead of subscribing to the “they know best” theory like the other parents. What will happen when Dr. Willner realizes the Wilsons are on to him?

First time YA novelist Prose presents an authentic teen view of overprotective adults while hinting that uninvolved parents may be the root of the problem of alienated teens gone wild. The view of attending high school in the post-Columbine novel is hauntingly realistic and highly disturbing. The conclusion lacks confrontation or resolution: tool for discussion, or cliffhanger for a sequel? You decide. Recommended for most collections.

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