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After the First Death

Book review by
Monica Wyatt, Common Sense Media
After the First Death Book Poster Image
Suspenseful plot has a psychological twist.
Popular with kids

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 12 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 32 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

Terrorists kidnap, murder, and torture.


Terrorists murder two children and one of the teenage main characters. Young children are drugged and held prisoner on a school bus.


Infrequent, mild to moderate.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the plot is too complex and subtle for some readers, the author packs the story with suspense and surprising twists that compel interest throughout.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bypancake kitty January 24, 2015

Parents beware

I read this book when my 13-year-old child read it for school and disliked it intensely. It is a difficult read, and many kids will not fully grasp the details... Continue reading
Parent of a 16 year old Written byLittle D October 13, 2009
i think it's good but you need to be the right age to read it and it jumps around alot
Teen, 17 years old Written byEmJay April 9, 2008

Totally confusing and psycho

I had to read the book for an english assignment. It was so compelling and yet I didn't like it. The plot got more confusing as it went along. The ending d... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bykidwell95 July 14, 2009

teens for sure

I am 14 and i thought it was really good. Its different from all the other books i read. Its pretty intense at points, over all i liked it.

What's the story?

Miro is sixteen, and it's time for him to prove his manhood by killing for his cause. Miro has been raised and trained as a terrorist, knowing only his older brother and Artkin, his leader, as family. As part of a gang of terrorists, Miro helps capture a bus full of small children.

Kate, the seventeen-year-old temporary bus driver, does her best to calm the children as they wait in the heat for rescue. She hides a spare key to the bus, and when Miro temporarily steps off, she tries to drive the bus away, but the engine stalls.

Much of the story is told through the eyes of Ben, the general's son, whom the general sends to the terrorists with proof that their leader has been captured. But is it really Ben who's talking? A surprise ending reveals what has happened to Ben, and to his father.

Is it any good?

This dark tale of suspense and murder gains added complexity with a stunning psychological twist in the final chapter. Not all young readers will understand the surprise ending, but most will find the book extremely compelling and intriguing. On the surface, this appears to be a straightforward suspense story of good guys versus bad guys. But Robert Cormier examines the thinking of everyone involved. He depicts Miro as a real human being, not merely as evil or crazed. The 16-year-old terrorist ponders his feelings about his life and his duty to kill.

Kate, the young bus driver, constantly weighs her options as she struggles to outwit her captors. Even a child on the bus, smart little Raymond, becomes human to readers, increasing the emotional intensity when the hijackers kill him. Most interesting is Ben, the son of the general. We see Ben in alternating chapters as he remembers the incident with the terrorists and as he awaits a visit at his school by his father. Ben appears to be suicidal, but readers don't know why. Cormier gives the book a stunning twist when readers discover that the narrator of those chapters may have been someone other than Ben. The shocker of an ending lifts the book out of a standard suspense genre, transforming it into an intriguing psychological study.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the way in which Cormier structured his book to include various points of view.

  • Why do you think he wrote it the way he did?

  • What are the different

  • points of view and how do they help advance the story?

  • Would you have

  • enjoyed the book more or less if it was structured another way?

  • Does

  • this book have clear-cut heroes and villains? Why or why not? Among the

  • various characters, who do you admire the most? The least?

Book details

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