Every year, at the beginning of summer, I’m faced with a literary dilemma.
I always tell myself, “This summer I’m going to get through one of those big, heavy classics that I’ve always meant to read.” And then, of course, the weather gets nice and my time and attention are pulled in a hundred different directions, and I never get more than 50 pages into “Don Quixote” or “Anna Karenina” or whichever tome I’m attempting.
This summer, I’m quitting the self-deception and giving myself over to gloriously fun, impossible-to-put-down summer reads. I started this adventure with a bang with Demitria Lunetta’s fantastic post-apocalyptic debut novel, “In the After.”
Amy is a fairly average 14-year-old girl when the world, as we know it, ends. She is home alone, watching TV, when the news alert comes through: Cities around the country have been attacked by what appear to be hostile extraterrestrials. The aliens are quick, deadly and seem to be motivated only by a desire to kill and feed. No demands are made. No treaty negotiations are attempted. The human race is simply decimated, swiftly and brutally.
Due to her parents’ unique blend of paranoia and foresight, Amy’s home is secure against “Them,” the only name she has for the monsters. She makes foraging raids into the surrounding neighborhoods, silently, to avoid the creatures who track their prey solely by sounds. During one of these raids, she discovers her true deliverance, a mute toddler who has miraculously managed to survive alone out in the open. With “Baby” to take care of, Amy has a reason to keep on living in the face of desolation.
Three years later, Amy and Baby’s lives are shattered again when their fortress home is compromised. Just as their destruction seems assured, they are picked up by a reconnaissance crew from New Hope, a colony of survivors who have found a way to push back the invading forces. New Hope seems like the bright morning that comes after a nightmare. Soon, however, Amy discovers that she has only traded one nightmare for another. Everything Amy believes to be true will be called into question when New Hope’s secrets come to light.
I’ll be honest, I was ready to give up on young-adult dystopias. I loved “The Hunger Games” and “Divergent” as much as the next die-hard YA fan, but some of the more recent contributions to the genre just haven’t quite worked for me. “In the After” has completely restored my faith, however. Lunetta has managed to create a realistic apocalyptic event and subsequent dystopia. Her writing is sharp and well-paced, and her idea of what society might like look immediately after the destruction of most of humanity is achingly believable.
If you’re looking to start your summer reading with an exciting page-turner, “In the After” might just be the book you’re looking for. As for me, I can’t wait to see where else my summer of reading for enjoyment will take me.
• “In the After” by Demitria Lunetta was published this month by HarperTeen. It retails for $17.99.
• Emily Ring works for Inklings Bookshop. She and other Inklings staffers review books in this space each week.