After the Wreck, I Picked Myself Up, Spread My Wings, and Flew Away



Raw look at loss & addiction best for older teens.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Teen characters in this book use drugs, drink, cut class, and steal. A teen girl is bulimic. Adults are shown out of control with anger and drunkenness. There are drug dealers and crimes committed. However, most bad behavior has appropriate consequences. There are models of love and support in the form of family.


A mother and daughter are in a horrific car accident, it is described, including the severe injuries sustained. A father hurts his daughter, she remembers him shaking her when he was angry. A girl is gang raped after a drug and alcohol-fueled party. A girl is intimidated by several older teens and is fearful of retaliation for reporting a crime. A group of young men fight, blood splatter is described.


Teenagers are sexually active and there is sexual innuendo. A high school boy has a young son.


Average teen swearing.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Oxycotin, marijuana, meth, alcohol, drug dealers -- it's all here.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know this book deals with heavy issues: a parent's death, addiction, depression, gang rape, and recovery. A description of a car wreck is particularly graphic and various drugs are abused, bought, and sold by teens.

What's the story?

Once popular, athletic, and "normal," Jenna Abbott isn't the same after a near-fatal car crash. Now she feels totally alone and sickly and fights to forget the accident in a number of self-destructive ways. Two friends come into her life, one who can help her recover and another who offers even more dangerous forms of self-punishment.

Is it any good?


Joyce Carol Oates finds a way to reach inside the soul of a teen and bring out every painful, joyful, and confused feeling, laying them out for readers to digest. Jenna Abbott is in a horrible car crash with her mother. After the crash, she is a completely different person and finds herself trying hard to cope and forget everything that happened.

Oates takes readers "into the blue" -- the drug-induced haze Jenna finds herself in after the crash -- and then pushes us "into the raw" -- real life, up close without drugs as Jenna experiences it. It's a heartbreaking, painful, encouraging, and ultimately beautifully crafted story of loss and recovery.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about any of the biggie topics presented here: dealing with the loss of a loved one, the dangers of prescription medication, dangerous friends, rape, and recovery. In what ways did Jenna punish herself for her mother's death? What do you know about the dangers of prescription medicine abuse? What deaths in the news can be attributed to prescription medicines?

Book details

Author:Joyce Carol Oates
Genre:Contemporary Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publication date:August 22, 2006
Number of pages:304
Publisher's recommended age(s):14
Read aloud:14
Read alone:14

This review of After the Wreck, I Picked Myself Up, Spread My Wings, and Flew Away was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Adult Written byandrewsgirl December 6, 2010
this book is a very good book i had just picked it for a project and i would like to say that this book is good for kids who have abused drugs to take away pain or someone that has lost a parent and has issues or withdraws from drugs. This book also has alot to do with drugs and violence and sexually content. I had seen my dad uzse drugs and i never had done anything because i have seen my dad go threw it and this book has supported me in so many ways
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Educational value
Adult Written byxjaclynhartx April 9, 2008

Loved it!

Great book, I couldn't put it down! I suggest this book!
Teen, 14 years old Written bynorderik29 November 8, 2009

Being Exposed Can Be GOOD!

I really liked it and it shows kids and teens what really can go on in the world. Although you dont want to expose your kids to some of the things in this book such as alcohol, sex, violence, rape, and gangs, being exposed to these things can help teens know to stay away from people like this. It also shows them the negative consequences that came out of the situation.


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Star Wars Guide