Top positive review
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Provocative, disturbing and timeless
on 3 June 2011
Unbelievably, troubled teens sulked around unhappy worlds long before The Hunger Games. One outstanding vintage example is Richard Cormier's After the First Death, first published in 1979.
A group of terrorists take a school bus hostage and the story focuses around three different teenage protagonists: the bus driver, one of the terrorists and the son of a US military commander. The three different points of view come out brilliantly. Mr. Cormier doesn't get bogged down in the objective "right" and "wrong", instead he patiently explains how and why the characters got there, and why they behave the way they do.
The conclusion is genuinely heart-breaking. No one makes it out intact - physically or emotionally. Although not overtly science-fictional, After the First Death contains many of the familiar tropes. One character, for example, is the son of a super-sekrit military general and his story arc is "learning the truth about his family". Although the book never tries to justifies terrorism, it does empathise with the terorrist - making it as provocative and as gutsy now as it was thirty years ago.