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Jessica, The Hertfordshire and Essex High School

After the Fire

After the fire was the first Carnegie book I read, and it definitely set the eight up well! It is captivating from the first page, and I couldn't put it down all the way through reading it.
The book alternates between the main character (Moonbeam)'s point of view both before and after a fire. When she is talking after the fire, it follows her through a journey of inner confliction, as she debates what to tell her psychiatrist or not. She is traumatised by the events that beheld her in the 'Lord's Legion' (the 'religious' camp she was rescued from). I found it fascinating how she battled with herself to try and rid herself of the influence of the person who ruled in the Lord's Legion. She is also battling with a lot of guilt, because she has convinced herself that what happened in the camp was her fault.

The Lord's Legion itself is a 'camp' in the middle of a desert in America, that is run by a man who calls himself Pastor John. The camp used to be a truly religious camp where people could come, go, or stay as they wished, and it was pleasant. When Pastor John took over though, it becomes a prison. Some children where born inside the camp and have no knowledge of what's outside, and Pastor John trains them to have a hatred of the outside. It even goes as far as to training everyone in the use of firearms, so when the 'big day' comes everyone can fight the outsiders.

The parts of the story where it is Moonbeam's memories of inside the Lord's Legion are dark. The things that are suggested to happen are shocking, and what is even worse is the fact that most of the characters have no idea that what is happening to them, and what they are doing is wrong. I won't give spoilers, because I highly recommend you read it yourself, but when i was reading it, as well as being captivated by the plot, I always felt a huge emotional connection to the characters and felt a lot of pity towards them.

Moonbeam herself is a very strong character. During the course of the book she overcomes her inner demons and discovers a lot of information about herself and her family. She is strong and speaks her mind, whilst also thinking carefully about everything she says because she has been so influenced by the 'teachings' of Pastor John.

I also really liked the characters of Doctor Hernandez (her psychiatrist) and the FBI agent who comes to sit in her sessions, and with whom Moonbeam develops a friendship. The agent is a sarcastic, funny character who also has a lot of empathy for the horrors that Moonbeam has gone through, because he compares her to his own children. Doctor Hernandez is kindly, and is not probing when talking to Moonbeam. He lets her go at her own pace, and it pays off as he builds up her trust.

Overall, After the Fire is an exceptionally good book. The emotions run high, and the characters are strong and relatable. Reading this book is something that you will not regret, and I think it has a very good chance of winning the whole Carnegie award.

Posted on: 20th March 2018 at 07:29 pm

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