After the Fire by Will Hill
Publication date: 01 June 2017
Genre: Contemporary YA
Page count: 566 pages
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
This review is spoiler-free.
I must confess that I initially ignored the hype surrounding After the Fire. It is listed as a contemporary YA novel, a genre I don’t tend to enjoy, and I knew nothing about it but the hype. When I spotted it at YALC this year and actually bothered to read the back, I realised that After the Fire is the exact kind of book I love! It’s a book that, like The Book Thief, truly transcends age ranges and is suitable for readers of all ages, particularly adults.
The things I’ve seen are burned into me, like scars that refuse to fade.
Father John controls everything inside The Fence. And Father John likes rules. Especially about never talking to Outsiders. Because Father John knows the truth. He knows what is right, and what is wrong. He knows what is coming.
Moonbeam is starting to doubt, though. She’s starting to see the lies behind Father John’s words. She wants him to be found out.
What if the only way out of the darkness is to light a fire?
After the Fire is a cult book, hell yes. Not only is it a book about a cult, it is influenced by the 1993 siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. Hill drew heavily from those events to create the plot of After the Fire. Although the two are not exactly the same, there are obvious parallels between real life and fiction, to the point where I guessed what event influenced the narrative after only half a page. Hill truly does justice to his subject, conveying the terrifying and horrible situation incredibly well. The jumps between the past and present add so much tension to the novel as well. While Moonbeam’s secrets aren’t terribly difficult to figure out, the slow reveal of her time in the compound added so much to her story and makes After the Fire a compulsive read.
Moonbeam herself is one of the reasons this book works so well. Hill’s decision to make her an intelligent and clever character worked out incredibly well — I think that her upbringing in the compound could have made her an incredibly ignorant, and therefore less compelling, character. I also really loved the fact that she had doubts well before she is removed from the compound. Her intelligence really shines through, and I loved reading through her thought process. She doesn’t get out of the compound unaffected though. Her struggle to overcome everything she has been taught about outsiders and the government is so visible on the page. She’s a complex character without being complicated — she’s truly a masterclass in character writing.
After the Fire is truly a book worthy of the hype surrounding it. Don’t be fooled by the contemporary YA label, it’s a book that transcends genre and can truly be enjoyed by all sorts of readers from across genres and age ranges.
Want to read After the Fire? You can pick it up at the following stores (affiliate links):