After the Fire by Will Hill
Genres: Young Adult, Thriller
Maturity Level: 4
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Before, she lived inside the fence. Before, she was never allowed to leave the property, never allowed to talk to Outsiders, never allowed to speak her mind. Because Father John controlled everything—and Father John liked rules. Disobeying Father John came with terrible consequences.
But there are lies behind Father John’s words. Outside, there are different truths.
Then came the fire.
If you’re into psychological thrillers and young adult novels, After the Fire definitely does the job. It was fun, moderately exciting, and mysterious enough. But it wasn’t as well executed as the best of the genre.
The number one positive was the cult plot point. It’s hard to go wrong with a cult, and I felt like Hill did a pretty good job capturing what it might be like to be raised by one, and then by how frightening the outside world might seem after rescue. It allowed for some pretty shades-of-grey characters who seem like genuinely good people, but are manipulated into doing some fairly horrible things. As far a cult leaders go, Father John was pretty much exactly what you would expect, which didn’t make him any less horrifying.
On the flip side, Hill’s decision to tell this story as Moonbeam speaking to her therapist was … upsetting. I don’t know if Hill has no idea about patient-doctor confidentiality, or if he just decided to completely ignore it for the sake of the plot, but not in a million years would an FBI agent be allowed to sit in on a therapy session. That really pissed me off, and I think it’s safe to say Moonbeam’s therapist was the worst in the history of the world. He regularly just told her about his opinions regarding her experiences, and how evil Father John was. Not appropriate.
Moonbeam’s story itself was compelling enough. I was eager to find out what happened to her. However, the elements of mystery were transparent enough to remove me from the reading experience (“I was NEVER going to tell them what I did.” Sooooo obvious), and when it came down to it were not at all shocking. I predicted every single one.
I enjoyed reading this book, and I would definitely recommend it to people who read all the psychological thrillers they can get their hands on. It was an entertaining read. But just don’t expect Sadie or anything.