Parents' Guide to

After the First Death

By Monica Wyatt, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

Suspenseful plot has a psychological twist.

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A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this book.

Community Reviews

age 13+

Based on 10 parent reviews

age 15+
age 16+

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 due to a constantly-changing narrative viewpoint. The plot revolves around a bus of 5-year-old children being kidnapped by terrorists. The bus is driven by a 16-year-old girl. All of the 5-year-olds are drugged. Parents should know that two of the little children are murdered by terrorists in this book; one overdoses on the forced drugs and one is shot and killed. The murders are celebrated by the terrorists in front of the media. Parallels are drawn between the United States military and terrorists. Two major characters commit suicide, a father and his teenage son. The girl is murdered point-blank in the end while begging for her life and crying for her mom and dad. The ending is unresolved with the main terrorist escaping and murdering yet another person. There is no doubt this book would be rated R as a movie due to drugging/overdosing of children and violence against children. Educators who select this book for children under 16 are baffling to me, given the wide range of fiction available today. Hideous book, parents beware.

This title has:

Too much violence
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (10 ):
Kids say (28 ):

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 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 violent incident 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.

Book Details

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