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- After the First Death by Robert Cormier
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Miro and his group leader, Artkin, are ready for what is to come when they board the bus full of kids, routed to take more than a dozen five-year-olds to summer camp. The two revolutionaries have done their homework and know the bus's schedule, know the best location to board the bus and take control from the driver, and do so without incident. But immediately there are unforeseen wrinkles to work around, as there are with even the most airtight plans. A young woman driver, instead of the man who usually drives the bus?
Miro, only a teenager himself, was ready to blast a bullet into the head of the man, but a woman? He's almost never even looked at a woman. How is he supposed to execute one?
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But no matter, the plan goes ahead with no need to kill Kate Forrester, at least not right away. As the bus's tires squeal to a halt midway across the towering bridge where Artkin had planned to stop all along, hanging high over the gushing waters of the river below, more than a hundred feet up and inaccessible by any straightforward method of rescue, the standoff has begun, even if the authorities have not yet been notified of the impending crisis.
Don't let your mind linger too long on what happens now; it will be dangerous for your mental health. The government is drawn into the deadly game of negotiations and bargaining, of course, and not apart from Artkin's will. His intent was always to place himself, Miro and the bus of panicked children in just this situation, literally high and dry and no more than a few feet from grisly death for the kids and their innocent driver. It was Artkin who alerted the authorities of something big going down involving a bus full of kids taken hostage, and now SWAT teams, special units, military officers and high-ranking generals are in on the crisis, pacing where solid land holds the promise of safety for all those children vulnerable to the blast of a madman's firearms should the mood strike him.
If the government is to believe Artkin is serious about his demands, then lives must be sacrificed on the continuously bloody altar of revolution, and the only lives on hand to ritually bleed are those of the five-year-olds, scarcely aware they are sheep treading toward the slaughter. How many nightmares can the murder of a single child set off, mercurial ripples of death and destruction lapping against other lives that then ripple out and poison still others, circling back with no end to the suffering? What damage, then, can multiple murders of the innocent inflict, bullets tearing through tiny chests and hearts and heads, young human matter never meant to rend and splatter, not intended to fray at the seams until the indifference of old age arrives, and with it the slow withering of natural death?
The potential energy of a million dreams cut short, more than a dozen individual futures smashed into shards of useless brokenness like glass panes dropped from a skyscraper, is what sits on the bridge keeping the world in unmoving dread, a symbol of the suffering that may be coming, the suffering that is coming.
There is no negotiating with terrorists, but there is no leaving a bus of children to be tortured and killed by an enemy of the state, either. There is only official operations hiding under cover as renegade movement driven by lawmen and military who won't bow to protocol when it's children whose lives are on the line, the men instigating the action the only ones whose reputations will be on the line should it fail.
But how can that ever work? How can it ever work without innocent bloodshed? It isn't the threat of young blood spilled to appease the demands of another country's radicals that holds After the First Death together, pushing the narrative forward swiftly and unobtrusively. It's the strong, sturdy content the author writes into the story, like heavy-duty girders designed to keep aloft the weightiest external matter.
It's the lesson Miro learned as a child in the refugee camp when the only toy he owned, prized as a gift from his older brother, was stolen in the night while he slept. Who would lift a toy from a sleeping child that has not a single other possession to his name? That didn't matter for Miro, because they were never going to find it. What matters is the lesson he learned from it: "Do not seek to own anything, do not try to make anything belong to you, do not look for pleasure in anything.
It will be taken from you sooner or later just as you must take from other people. What does a minor exchange of money for another toy mean in the larger scheme of things if it can soothe a small worried brow, or cause to cease the tears of a boy or girl missing their favorite plaything? But Miro doesn't come from that world; his thinking is different, it had to be different if he was to survive. It's a big part of the mindset that has led him to this terrible day on the bridge, holding a gun both proverbially and literally to the heads of children like he once was, but of much more privileged backgrounds.
Having always the mindset of never taking ownership over anything in this world, living only for the homeland that has been disrespected internationally but can finally be compensated for its travails, is what it takes to lead a busload of youngsters to the tipping point, knowing death most likely awaits. What hope does Kate Forrester, the bus driver, have to go on now? The writing is on the wall for her; it isn't hard to figure out her life is most expendable of all the hostages, and she has been lucky to be allowed to live until now.
It's the children, in truth, who keep her alive, for Artkin, Miro and their cohorts have no knowledge of young ones and even less awareness of what American kids need in order to remain calm in a tense situation. If Kate can help assuage a few fears temporarily and keep the hostages docile, then she's worth the trouble of allowing her to live a few more hours.
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But Kate is no fool. She knows her elimination could be given the go-ahead at any time; her time is borrowed, and with that awareness comes the desperation of needing to stay alive no matter what, the instinct that if all others die the world can still prevail, but if oneself dies it is the end forever. There is a bus of unmined assets sitting around her, however, little hands and brains whose capabilities in some respects, at least, are beyond those of adults, and though it may be a wan hope, it is a hope nonetheless in the midst of pessimism stretching otherwise to the four corners of the earth.
Is it of any importance at all? Kate Forrester's most interesting thoughts in her hours of sitting and staring, unable to do anything but pat a few downy heads and stroke a tearstained cheek or two when the kids' distress grows especially intense, are about her burgeoning realization that the moments of deepest despair in dreading the death that likely awaits her come right before she is buoyed by unexpected surges of hope.
It's the hope of desolation, she knows, when she has accepted things can't get worse and she's going to die, so she knows she has nothing to lose. In those moments, unseen options come to light and crazy stunts she could try begin romancing her affections, even if they would put her and the children in great peril. Without fear of causing her or anyone else's death needlessly, convinced they will probably all perish anyway, it frees Kate to hope again, though it is hope born not of reason, but fatalism.
Didn't flowers grow out of dirt? Isn't there always room for a little cautious hope? But Kate hits the nail on the head when an audacious plan she constructs can't seem to get going because she's having a hard time forcing herself to commit unreservedly to decisive action. Why can it be so hard to act even when we've reasoned endlessly about it and know we're doing the right thing, that the risks are worth the reward even if both are extreme? As Kate reflects, " But even with all the bravery you'll need, plans fail so easily.
Yes, they do Told in two primary alternating sections, After the First Death feels, at first, like a disjointed story, pieces not fitting together properly as in a normal book. That's because there's so much the reader doesn't know, so many horrors to be revealed. You can be thankful you don't know the truth before you do, a short-lived mercy among atrocities, like drugged chocolate bars as prelude to a bullet in the skull. The pieces will coalesce soon enough, and you, as I did, will reel from the heartbreak that accosts your soul like a militant nationalist on a suicide mission, knowing full well it will take you both down in the end.
There's no escaping the haunting nature of a break in the human psyche when it comes, when the tragedies we could have prevented and the guilt feasting nonstop on our soul are too powerful to keep at bay any longer, and the miracle of lucidity crashes down around us like the destruction of a priceless palace.
It blows our minds because we cannot imagine bearing the guilt, either, the weight of unintended consequences crushing us, at last, when the one we can't live without is snuffed out like the dying flicker of flame on a wilted candle wick. This is the horror Robert Cormier writes about. This is the horror above all others, the last refuge of empathy in a world desensitized to everything else. It is why After the First Death is a story you will never be able to let go of. And why, no matter how hard you try to shake it, it will never let go of you. And there it is; I have now read the last of Robert Cormier's young-adult suspense novels, barring future posthumous releases.
The Master is gone, now, a casualty of pervasive lung cancer at age seventy-five in the year No more novels to strike our souls with unrelenting grief, make our hearts ache and mourn so strongly for people we never knew that we feel like we are going to pieces, too, like we are breaking apart and there's no way we can ever be put back together again.
It's a feeling of being completely, indivisibly alive that not everyone can understand or appreciate, being part of the universal pain of a life in which the "good guys" don't always win, yet it doesn't prevent us from trying our luck and hoping for something better. After the First Death and Robert Cormier's other novels remind us indelibly that hope isn't to be trifled with, and isn't to be taken for granted as if it will wait there for us whether we embrace it or not. Hope is a fleeting entity, disappearing so easily if we take our eyes off it for a second, and After the First Death will have you holding it closer than ever, as you might a beloved friend or family member after experiencing a realistic nightmare about their death.
You won't ever read another book like After the First Death , of that I am sure. I could never adequately express its greatness with my words, but then, I don't need to. The story explains itself better than I ever could. Prepare yourself, though, because after reading this book, you will never be quite the same.
Jul 17, Bobbie rated it really liked it Recommends it for: older boys who like action and are not easily offended, and my husband. Shelves: eng The truth is, I'm not sure how I feel about this book. As I was reading it, I turned page after page - drowning in the words and the action. I felt like I was there. My blood pressure skyrocketed; I felt like I was in one of my all-too-vivid nightmares - and yet, I kept reading. At least I didn't pee my pants But then it ended. The ending left me reeling, caught in that no-man's-land between hating and loving, unsure how to feel or what to make of the book.
Who was the biggest vict The truth is, I'm not sure how I feel about this book. Who was the biggest victim? Who was most to blame? How does something like this happen? And I guess that really is the beauty of After the First Death. This book is metaphorically accurate in its portrayal of terrorism - a war that brings out the worst in all of us - a war that nobody wins.
Violence: All things considered, this was not the goriest book I have read recently. The premise made it seem like it might be a bit bloody. What it lacks in blood, it makes up for in terrorism against children. The violence might not be graphically described, but it is disgusting enough without the blood. Be prepared. Language: There are a couple of cuss words in the book. Sex: There is some partial nudity described. A guy thinks about masturbation and sex. A girl attempts to attract a man in order to make him see her as more human. A couple characters think about prostitutes. While this isn't really about sex, it does relate to the body so I guess I'll put it here - my professor said a student was offended by the fact that a teenage girl wet herself multiple times throughout the book.
Personally, I did not find this offensive; I think I would probably wet myself in that situation too. This is not an adventure story, like one might expect of a YA novel. There is great tension but little action as most of the the book deals with the thoughts and emotions of three teens' caught up in a hostage-taking incident -- they are inexperienced, ideological and lacking in forethought, yet expected to function as adults by the adults who are in control. While this story is told from multiple perspectives, it is a very close third person - sometimes in the head of the teen terrorist, someti This is not an adventure story, like one might expect of a YA novel.
While this story is told from multiple perspectives, it is a very close third person - sometimes in the head of the teen terrorist, sometimes the teen hostage, and also the teen sent in as messenger - none of it meant to be comfortable or comforting. Overall, one of the most powerful YA books I've read this year, as relevent today as when it was written in Nov 19, Jessica Reid rated it it was amazing Shelves: the-best.
After the first death
Cormier was a genius. His writing is absolutely outstanding and never ceases to amaze me. His books are - in many ways - terrifying and so unflinching in their approach to their topics. This novel deals with terrorists who hijack a school bus. It's been many years since I first read this novel and it still haunts me. Absolutely incredible. Nov 10, Jessica rated it really liked it Recommends it for: i'm not totally sure that i would, their parents might kill me. Shelves: kind-of-depressing , wee-ones-and-bored-teenagers. I know I just said I was going to go do my homework, but that gorilla-girl book got me thinking about some of the most bizarre and disturbing YA fiction I've ever read, and then of course Robert Cormier popped, guns blazing, into my mind.
The Chocolate War books were intense, but this one was the real doozy! The images in this book were seared permanently into my brain, and whenever I'm prompted to imagine what it might be like to be held hostage by terrorists -- as I Woah. The images in this book were seared permanently into my brain, and whenever I'm prompted to imagine what it might be like to be held hostage by terrorists -- as I increasingly have been, by various parties, over the past few years -- I'm at pains to remind myself that this isn't something I've actually experienced.
This book made it seem so scarily, viscerally real: I remember the feeling of having to pee, then tight, wet jeans, of the fear, and the kids -- not just the fear of the girl who's watching the kids what is she, a camp counselor? This book was extremely well-written, and likely responsible for vicarious PTSD symptoms in a measurable percentage of YA-aged readers.
After The First Death Term paper
Jul 30, Trevor rated it it was amazing Recommends it for: Readers who like to be kept guessing. Shelves: teen-lit-read. Published first in one of my prized books is a signed first HC edition , it reads as if it were a hostage crisis unfolding right before us. A school bus full of kids is taken hostage by young men fighting for their country and religion. There's some major Stockholm syndrome, and some very unsettling plot twists revealed as the book progresses. There's a general in charge of anti terrorist activities, who ends up putting his own son in the hostage takers' paths.
All the decisions made by th Published first in one of my prized books is a signed first HC edition , it reads as if it were a hostage crisis unfolding right before us. All the decisions made by the characters here are unbelievably difficult. It's one of the grittiest YA books I've ever read. View 2 comments. Jul 03, Kate rated it liked it Shelves: age-ya , vintage-ya , Sixteen children are held hostage on a schoolbus, and three teens will determine their survival.
Kate wasn't meant to be the bus driver that day, she was just filling in for her uncle. Ben wasn't meant to be there either. He got involved because his father is a general in a secret government organization. And Miro - well, Miro meant to be there. It is his mission.
He doesn't expect to survive the day. His death will help the cause. I need to start keeping track of those blog posts where these bo Sixteen children are held hostage on a schoolbus, and three teens will determine their survival. I need to start keeping track of those blog posts where these books are recommended to me! The description of this one sounded intriguing, a little like Ransom by Lois Duncan. But it is quite different, because it's clear in this case that the hijackers of the bus are Middle Eastern.
There are sections in first person, which seem to be Ben's diary, alluding to past events of the bus hijacking on the bridge. Ben is distraught about how the day turned out and is considering suicide. Then we get the third-person narrations of Kate and Miro. Kate is focused on survival, even though she is the most likely to die. In fact, Miro was supposed to kill her immediately, but because she is a young woman instead of the older man they expected to be driving the bus, they allow her to live to care for the children.
Miro is presented yes, as a terrorist, raised to be part of this movement. He has known no other life. He is accustomed to women who wear burkas, and Kate's American style of dress makes him suddenly aware of sex. The tension is great throughout the story, leading up to the end which surprised me somehow. As always with Cormier, gray areas are explored. Who is good and who is bad, manipulation is key for nearly every character. I had to check the copyright date on this one - There has been unrest in the Middle East for a long time, and I knew that these hijackers were not ISIS but were likely instead Israeli or Palestinian, and yet it felt so current.
It's rare when a vintage YA novel holds up so many years later, because so many deal with "trendy" topics. This was more about the psychology of three different characters in an intense situation, and that will always stand the test of time. Mar 22, Ryne rated it did not like it Shelves: engl I don't know WHY I assumed that a book about terrorists and hostage situations would be happier.
It was a powerful read, but it was ultimately too disturbing for me to finish. In the novel, terrorists from an unnamed country hijack a school bus in order to further the liberation of their homeland. Things get complicated when the bus driver who was supposed to be killed within minutes of the hijacking is an year-old girl. And when the military intervenes, things get scarier yet. The novel's story is mainly told from the viewpoints of three teenagers involved in this terrifying situation: Miro, one of the terrorists; Katie, the bus driver; and Ben, the son of a military general who is chosen to act as a liaison in the negotiations between the government and the terrorists.
The novel is grim and graphic and sometimes gut-wrenching: much of the action takes place on the school bus, which becomes hot and smelly and eerie, filled with moaning drugged children and the terrified Katie. So I stopped. Truth be told, Robert Cormier is actually a really skilled writer.
After the First Death by Robert Cormier
He describes characters very realistically, making me care about them especially the little children and the year-old, Katie, who are taken hostage by terrorists in the novel. The book was actually very gripping and character-driven: there is relatively little action in the novel, in fact, but you're kept moving along by its excellent writing. But while I know that the overall premise of the novel is a "good" point i. The reason the novel disturbed me so profoundly was in fact because it was so well-written. It might seem pretty silly for me to have stopped the book with only 59 pages left, but I don't need to see any more.
The book has done its work for me; I've seen enough. I understand that not everyone will have the same reaction I did to After the First Death. I have noted some of the good in the novel, and the most impressive thing for me was the heroism of Katie--she is a realistic and frightened young woman who does the best she can and is a true and brave hero.
But for me, personally, having read as much of the book as I did, I feel a little bit like Marlow at the end of Heart of Darkness : this book was just "too dark [for me] — too dark altogether. If there were separate ratings for "how much I liked a book" and for "quality of writing in the book," I would give the book a low "like" factor as I have here , but a high "writing quality" factor. Jun 13, Chrissie rated it it was amazing Shelves: ya-lit I thought this book was magnificent.
It has a twist at the end that will make you want to turn around and read it again, and when you do you will be mystified by the brilliance of Robert Cormier. I was, at least. As I was reading it, I found the narrative of the general's son to be the most interesting. The story of the high jacked bus with the children was, of course, incredibly suspenseful and unpredictable, and I felt that was well done.
The character development was very interesting, especia I thought this book was magnificent. The character development was very interesting, especially when considering the time in which the novel was written The typical gender roles were not necessarily what I expected them to be, but I also saw the ideals of the time reflected in that aspect of the story. This was a truly well-written book, and it will be shocking and emotional in many areas.
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I was torn in a lot of ways, because I tended to identify with the "good" guys, but that line is very blurry in this story. I would absolutely recommend this novel, and I actually look forward to having an opportunity to reading it again. May 04, Cory Hernandez rated it really liked it Shelves: ya-lit-eng Holy cow! This book blew my mind! The book is one that will really make the reader think, which is why I primarily loved the book; it really made me think. The book tells the incredible story of terrorists hijacking a bus of five and six year old children, as well as a young woman who is the bus's driver.
The book is told through the eyes of Miro, one of the hijackers, Kate, the bus driver, and Ben, the son of a g Holy cow! The book is told through the eyes of Miro, one of the hijackers, Kate, the bus driver, and Ben, the son of a general. The reader sees different view points and is forced to sympathize with all of them.
I thought this book was very well written. In the beginning, it was a little hard to know what was going on, but as the book kept going, it was easier to figure out; that is, until the end and then it was a little harder. It was very real and most of the characters were believable for the most part. There is violence, including the death of two children, and also many swearing scenes.
Overall, great book and highly recommended. Should be taught in the higher grades of high school. Scale Violence: 4 child death, guns, explosions, and some minor torturing Sex:3 sexual fantasy Language Feb 04, Gina Baik rated it really liked it. Because of that Ben and his father haven't spoken for months and maybe even years.
Also because Ben told all the information to the terrorists he could no longer live with himself so he committed suicide. There was no real description of Ben because the story was told from his point of view. Mark: Mark is bens father who feels guilty for forcing Ben to deliver a message to the terrorists and as a result Ben kills him self. At the end Ben and his father has a very deep conversation but of course it is in Marks imagination.
Mark is a General for a top-secret military force. He is part of a group know as Fort Delta. He has a very secret life that he can not share with his family.
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He is the watchful eye for the group. He is very skillful at his work. Later he gets shot be one of the snipers in the woods. Stroll: Stroll is the best driver in the country. He is African American and he is very quiet rarely speaks but when he dose it is very important.
Most of the tome he uses gestures instead of words. Sedeete: Sedeete is the leader of the Freedom Fighters. He is even greater than Artkin. Later he is captured and that was the downfall of the operation. Raymond: Raymond is a little boy who is on the bus. He is the only child who truly knows what is going on because he is awake while all the other kids are asleep.
And he also refuses to eat any of the drugged candy and as a result he his killed by Artkin. Setting: In my story there are two settings one is in a dormitory of castle high and the other is the bridge where the hijackers take the bus. Castle High is the high school where the kids of people that are involved with Fort Delta go.
Or was Ben killed in the hijacking skirmish, a victim of his father's betrayal and of his own blind trust? Do we admire Ben or pity him? Another student letter provides an interesting perspective. I thought it really took a lot of courage and commitment to meet with the terrorists and try to help end the crisis. At first I thought that you were only attending Fort Delta because that is what your father wanted, a kind of identity foreclosure I guess. However, even someone who is in foreclosure would question risking their life, unless they were really dedicated to helping in the situation.
Now I realize that you were definitely identity achieved, maybe more than the others involved. The only thing is, you should have questioned more and tried to get a broader understanding of the situation. On the whole, I'd say you did a pretty good job! This student obviously admires Ben, though he doesn't explain exactly in his letter what leads him to believe that Ben is identity achieved. Such a response would be provocative material for class discussion. So far I have explored the more subtle forms of identity crises in Cormier's work, but in I Am the Cheese we have a protagonist who is literally confused about his identity.
From the flashbacks that we get, we see that his family life was rather dull and uneventful -- his father mysterious and his mother withdrawn. Cormier describes Adam as an outsider, a loner who is looking for affection and companionship. This is where Amy Hertz comes in. His association with her is his first attempt to try on a new role, the role of mischief-maker. Her "Numbers" give him a chance to be daring, as they do silly things like leaving a cart of baby food jars in front of the Kotex display at the local supermarket.
But Adam's "moratorium" is cut short when his family is given a new identity and comes under the "protection" of Mr. Grey and his associates. After a car accident, in which his mother is killed and his father eventually run down, he is captured and kept a virtual prisoner, unable to become emotionally autonomous, lost in a world of drugs and interrogations. Like Jerry, Kate, Miro, and Ben, Adam too has lost his innocence -- the cumulative effect of the corruption around him. The "mixed messages" that Stringer alludes to in her article might be a good starting point for discussion of identity development with students who are reading the novels of Cormier.
Examining the pressures that society and the family place on young people by studying the situations encountered by the protagonists in these books may help students make better sense of their own lives. Exploring definitions of "character" and "self-esteem" with them and inviting them to draw from their own experience, for example, seems an effective way to help students make connections between fictional characters and themselves.
Discussing "insecurity" and "intimidation" and how they affect our everyday lives is another step toward understanding. Encouraging adolescent readers to ask why certain characters behave as they do prompts them to look beyond the literal and the obvious to the more subtle forces at work in fiction and in life. Cormier's fiction is rich in possibility, especially as we explore the much-criticized aspects of his novels. Does a book's grim ending engender a loss of hope?
Or does it arouse the fighter in us who says, "I will not be defeated. Evil will not prevail"? Adolescent readers who can see that emotional autonomy depends on this kind of inner strength are well on their way to facing the difficulties inherent in growing up. Brainstorm as a class the different roles adolescents play. In journals, ask students to reflect on the roles they've played in their lives.
Whom did they try to be? What was the result? Then examine the roles played by fictional characters. This examination could perhaps lead to an essay on the value to identity achievement of role experimentation. Have students in small groups discuss the influence of parents and peers on their lives.