Can you imagine spending your 13th birthday in a hole hiding from the Nazis in order to save your life? This is exactly how Morris Gleitzman’s book After begins, as the main character, Felix, continues his journey growing up in Europe during World War II. After is the third book in the Gleitzman’s series of Then and Once. In this book, two years have past since the book Then left off.
Hiding in a hole in a barn, Felix hears people he thinks are the Gestapo, or Nazi soldiers talking to his friend Gabriek. Curious, Felix follows them and uncovers a big secret about his friend that puts them both in terrible danger. The setting of After is in Poland 1945 which adds to the suspense of the novel because the Nazis were heavily occupied in that area. Suspecting his friend was captured by the the enemy, Felix tracks Gabriek and the mysterious group to a railroad. Felix unveils himself to the group and assures everyone of Gabriek’s loyalties to the Nazi Party to rescue him from danger. What Felix finds out is a plot twist that will really surprise the reader.
The story’s plot develops with a conflict against society and nature when the pair return home to find Gabriek’s house on fire, set by the Nazis. In an effort to save his belongings, Gabriek runs into his burning home and gets severely injured from a log that falls onto his head. To save Gabriek’s life, Felix has to decide whether to bring him to the Partisans. The Partisans are an organization that fight the Nazi government, and have medical equipment and doctors who can help Felix and Gabriek. When Felix finds them, Felix is forced to join them as a surgery assistant. When with the Partisans, Felix learns how to become a surgeon, and builds close relationships with new people. Everything is going well, until the Nazis discover the secret location of the Partisan camp. Will the Partisans be able to escape the Nazis?
Throughout After, the protagonist, Felix, and the supporting characters surprised me with their actions and courage. Despite everything Felix was going through, he treated others well and handled crisis bravely. The characters faced danger and challenges with honor. After was a heartbreaking, realistic and amazing book for children that are twelve years or older, and I really enjoyed it and will suggest it to others.