Saturday, May 28, 2011

ARC Review: What Comes After by Steve Watkins

Title: What Comes After
Author: Steve Watkins | Author Website
Available: Now
Reading Level: YA
Genre: Contemporary

Description via Goodreads:

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.

My thoughts:

Iris’s mother split years ago and now that her father has passed away she finds herself stuck living with an aunt she doesn’t even know. She has to move from her home state of Maine to small town North Carolina. From the moment she meets Aunt Sue at the airport Iris seems to realize life is not going to be the same. To say Aunt Sue is tough would be an understatement. She is cruel and seems to turn to violent forms of discipline with ease. 

Iris quickly develops an attachment to the goats Aunt Sue raises. When the two male goats are sentenced for slaughter Iris reacts quickly to save their lives. She seriously ticks off her aunt in the process and finds herself beaten senseless by her aunt and cousin. This lands them in jail, Iris in foster care, and the goats left to fend for themselves. Iris quickly realizes desperate times call for desperate measures.

What Comes After contains two elements that I typically shy away from when it comes to choosing books to read. Child abuse and animal abuse. I was hesitant, but with all the glowing reviews I decided to give it a try. I’m so glad I did. While it was without a doubt a heartbreaking story of loss, it is also an empowering tale of survival. 

Iris is a wonderful protagonist who was very easy to connect with. I absolutely adored watching her growing bond with the animals on her aunt’s farm. The progression of her relationship with her aunt and cousin was much harder to experience. I’m still amazed I read it so quickly with the amount of heavy topics it contains. Iris’s voice flowed so smoothly while she told her story. I found I couldn’t put this book down once I started reading. 

The moments when she remembered the times she helped her veterinarian father care for animals were some of my favorites. Being a huge animal lover it definitely helped me to connect with Iris almost immediately. The animals in this book were also utterly endearing. If I had to pick a favorite animal, goats would be high on the list. They are packed full of so much personality and love to play. We had the chance to visit a goat farm a few years ago and my entire family had a blast. I found playing with the goats didn’t differ much from playing with a dog. I loved how easily the author captured their playful nature on the pages of What Comes After.

Some of the events that occurred over the course of What Comes After were gruesome. I admit to skimming a certain scene because emotionally I just couldn’t handle it. If you read this there will be tears. It is one of those books that just wreaks havoc on your heart and emotions. I’m so glad I didn’t pass this one by. I highly recommend it to fans of YA contemporaries.

My Rating:



  1. Aw this one sounds heartwarming. I believe in the healing power of animals so this sounds like a book made for me!