Ages 14 up
It is the most heinous crime imaginable: A mother murders her own child moments after the baby is born. We’ve heard on the news these horrifying tales of infantacide.
But in this story, the infant survives.
A man taking his dog for an early morning walk is frustrated when his determined dog drags him toward a dumpster. But when he draws closer, he hears something stirring within the depths of the garbage. After removing multiple black trash bags, he finds the one the noise is coming from, and inside is a tiny newborn baby—still covered in blood and vernix, with a jaggedly cut umbilical cord.
The police investigation leads to Devon’s house. She is home from school with a fever and body aches she doesn’t understand, and she is hemorrhaging from giving birth. After being patched up at the hospital, Devon is transferred to a juvenile detention center.
In the detention center Devon must not only face the consequences of her actions, she must face the reality of her actions. Devon doesn’t remember the night her daughter was born. She doesn’t remember the night the child was conceived, and she certainly doesn’t remember any nefarious plan to murder her helpless child. Or does she? Things are not so cut-and-dried in this thought-provoking novel. The reader learns with Devon what happened that led to that morning the infant was thrown into the trash. Written in the present tense, this book doesn’t allow for distance—the reader is right there with Devon, experiencing her anguish as she peels back the layers to get to the heart of her own story.
Further, as the truth is revealed, the reader is unsure whether to hope Devon receives a favorable ruling or that she is punished for attempted murder. And because Devon is herself a child, the reader begins to look for excuses. One almost wants the pregnancy to be the result of something traumatic so Devon’s actions might be excused—but it is not, and the reader cannot. It is also difficult to root for Devon: She is frequently disagreeable and self-absorbed, and if she planned what she is accused of, it is unforgivable.
Though it is not possible to excuse her actions, the reader will come to understand Devon through her journey of self-discovery, and grace for Devon is possible.
Possible discussion topics: Consequences of one’s actions, making good relationship choices, the importance of support.
Caveats: Premarital sex, emotionally charged material, vivid description of the birth and subsequent abandonment of the baby, bad language, self-mutilation.
Some discussion questions to get you started:
- 1. Devon is initially derisive of her mother. She is critical of her mother’s choice in men, her clothing, her jobs, that her mother treats her like a friend instead of her child, and that Devon’s mother had her as a teen. Later she is disappointed by her mother’s failure to show up at the juvenile detention center. What part, if any,—do you think Devon’s mother played in Devon’s actions. Is she a bad person? A weak person? Or just a broken person?
2. Karma is an interesting minor character in this book. Why do you think she responds to Devon the way she does? What is her role in Devon’s journey of self-discovery?
3. Since the reader is involved in Devon’s journey of self-discovery, we’re invited to make to a judgment about Devon’s guilt or innocence. Which do you think she is? Why? Can you excuse her actions? What should be the consequence for her actions?
4. This book has a definite conclusion, but it also leaves some room for the reader to contemplate the future of the characters. What do you think will happen next to Devon? What would be an ideal scenario? What is a likely scenario?
If you liked this book you might enjoy: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher, Looking for Alaska by John Green, Cut by Patricia McCormick, Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin.