BOOK REVIEW: After (Morris Gleitzman, Viking)

Continuing the story of Felix from Once, Then and Now, After follows the events of Then. The war is still going on and for the past two years Felix has been hiding in a hole in the barn of a man named Gabriek. When the farm is burned down, Felix has no choice but to join the partisans in the forest. We see Felix (who is now 13) become a medical assistant to the partisan doctor, find a mother figure in Yuli and in turn act as a parent to a group of orphaned children—including both Jewish children and a couple of members of the Hitler Youth. Surrounded by the violence of the partisans we see Felix grapple with the idea of killing. As a reader you will wonder if the horrors Felix has seen will turn him into a hardened killer or if he will retain his sensitivity. There are a few moments of humour slipped in—Felix has been reading the ‘Just William’ books while hiding in the barn and at times prays to Richmal Compton. While Felix still has an innocence about him, his narration is much less naïve than in the first two books. This is a very emotional read. After is recommended for readers aged 12 and up who are interested in historical fiction. Some violent scenes do occur so be mindful with readers at the younger end of this spectrum.

Amelia Vahtrick is the children’s book buyer at Better Read Than Dead in Newtown. This review first appeared in the June/July issue of Bookseller+Publisher Magazine. View more pre-publication reviews here.

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