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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.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 10 February 2012
I was pointed in the direction of this book, originally published in 1979, for a teenage audience, by another reviewer, who referenced it in comparison to The Good Father, a new book which looks at the psychology of the lone assassin, but focuses more on the father of the disaffected young man, than the assassin himself.

Cormier has four major protagonists, through whose eyes the story is examined. The major event is the hijacking of a bus full of children by 4 men from an unnamed country, most probably one of the countries of the Middle East, as part of a political protest, and in order to get hostages released and the plight of their country to be openly seen, on the world stage. The major characters are Miro, the young man who has been groomed into freedom fighting/terrorism, Kate, the young woman who happens to be driving the bus, full of 4 and 5 year olds, and Ben, the son of a shadowy figure high up in the US military, who is precipitated into a pivotal position as messenger/go between. The fourth character is his father.

Realistically, I found the exploration of the father/son relationship, and indeed the Ben part of the story, the least credible, in terms of realism, but as this book was written specifically for teens, the unlikely choice of emissary makes sense. In fact, it's the only thing which gives away its designated audience, for this book is very adult indeed. Cormier makes no authorial 'these bad guys are monsters' calls - he explores the how they came to be as they are, with great subtlety. We see Miro through the growing understanding and subtle intuition, empathy and thought of Kate, who is able to grasp how such monstrous actions come to be, without condoning them. Miro too is challenged by his realisation of the humanity of his 'enemy'

It's obvious the book is not going to 'end well', it's not going to be a satisfyingly simplistic gung-ho good guys win and nuke the baddies to kingdom come splatt! type of book. This is not a spoiler. Kate, undoubtedly the most emotionally and mentally astute of all the characters, the most able to see behind the masks we hide behind, is clear, right from the very start that there can be no ending without dreadful loss. Cormier repeatedly, through Kate, prepares us for a real world which is brutal on all sides. Sadly, rhe subject matter of this book has become more, not less, pertinent and of the present in the 30 years since it was written. It's a book for our time, even more than for the late 70s
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on 14 June 2011
I am thrilled that this excellent book is still in print - I read it as part of my 'O' level (remember them?!?) syllabus and the characters have stayed with me ever since (+25 years!)

After the First Death is a brilliant but disturbing book - it challenges your immediate thoughts and makes you think really deep about situations.

I intend on buying this book for my step-daughter - but also reading it again the minute she is finished!!
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on 23 September 2003
I read this book and it totally blew me away. It is not, nor is it supposed to be, a thriller and if you're looking for a trashy paperback to read on a beach in Benidorm, then I suggest you pick up the latest John Grisham. But if you're looking for a thoroughly complex novel that makes you question every aspect of your world view then please pick up this book. It focuses on themes of betrayal and trust. How much do you know yourself? What would you do in similar circumstances? What, indeed, is heroism?
This book is one of the best things that I have ever read. It's not an easy read, but it's certainly not slow (sorry other reviewer). Read it, you won't be disappointed.
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on 19 August 2002
At first when i started reading the first chapter, i didnt really get it, but when you read on you cannot put the book down, you really want to know what is going to happen. In the bus incident where the terrorists have captured people, Robert Cormier talks about the emotions, feelings, thoughts of not only the hostages but also the terrorists, you think you are acually there inside the person's body which makes it a real thriller and a hard book to put down, A MUST READ!!!!!
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on 8 December 1999
When I first started to read this book I didn't think I would like it but then BANG I was hooked. Extremely suspenseful, detailed captivating, and sad, I think it is a great read for teens and adults. Give it about 10 pages and you'l think so too. The book is awesome!!! and I am 13 yrs old
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on 5 October 2003
Wow that was a great book..i didn't expect it to be, its not really my sort of book but i had to read it for a school project and i mean wow that was great...
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on 7 February 2002
In my opinion the book " After the first Death " was ok.At the beginning of the book it was hard to understand and I had a lot of problems with the vocabulary and the context. However, after I read the first parts I understood more and more. Actuelly, I had a lot of questions in the first chapter: Where, for example, is Ben ? Is he living or death ? Who is speaking ? He or his
father ?, but then we discussed it in class. The end of the story is very sad, but this is reality. The timing of reading this book was good because it is a world-theme.
I also find it good that in the book we also know a lot of the hijackers and about their plans. When you watch TV, there you only see the injured people and the soldiers, who fight against terrorism.
This book is commenable !!!
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on 14 March 2010
I was litrally blown away by this book. The blurb was what intriged me, but I wasn't expecting it to be great as it is a young adult book. It was amazing though and I am even suprised that it is aimed at that audience as it included a lot of death and violence.

I firstly liked the book as little things that had always made me wonder were included such as what would you do about needing the toilet in a hostage situation or if you were on your period? Then it got very exciting as the book moved on and by the end I was stunned. It was one of those books that makes you gasp and cover your mouth in shock; I actually put it down and sat thinking for a moment because it hit me so hard.
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on 14 February 2001
This novel was required reading for my 10th grade honors English class, and I have to admit that I loved it. The beginning is a bit slow, but after the first part I guarantee you'll be on the edge of your seat. However, it does have a complicated storyline, and is difficult to follow at times. Experienced readers & deep literature lovers will appreciate it - but don't forget to pick up a review or analysis when you're done (I'd suggest "Presenting Robert Cormier.")
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