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A Hidden Teen Pregnancy, An Unthinkable Crime

The protagonist of After, Amy Efaw's new novel for young adults, is a 15-year-old straight-A student and Olympic hopeful who winds up in jail, charged with trying to murder her newborn baby.

The story is very different from that of Efaw's first novel, Battle Dress, which was based on the author's experiences as a West Point cadet. Efaw admits that Afteris pretty dark content, especially for young adults.

"It is a disturbing and taboo subject," she tells Scott Simon. "There's a lot of silence around the subject. I don't know what it says about me, but I'm intrigued by the things people don't want to talk about, the darker side of human nature."

In the book, Devon, Efaw's protagonist, doesn't know she is pregnant. Though this may seem implausible — especially for an athlete — Efaw argues that the core of the phenomenon is denial.

There's a lot of silence around the subject. I'm intrigued by the things people don't want to talk about, the darker side of human nature.

"If a young girl like my main character, Devon, is denying the fact that she even had a sexual relationship at all, because dealing with that was just too painful ... then of course there can't be a resulting pregnancy from that."

Though some parents may feel that the content is inappropriate for teens, Efaw says she doubts that girls are likely to read the book and say, " 'You know, I can't wait to get pregnant so I can throw my baby in a garbage can.' "

Instead, she thinks that teens will relate to the isolation that Devon feels: "I think a lot of kids feel invisible. And so book like this can validate their feelings and help them realize that they are not alone. ... And then for the kids who aren't feeling isolated or alone, a book like this can help them empathize with the kids around them who are."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: October 19, 2009 at 12:00 AM EDT
In the original version of this story, the ellipses in the excerpt for After, by Amy Efaw, did not appear to due to a formatting error. This error has been corrected.