The novel presents the collision of the Guardian and Esprit worlds, as well as the division between life and death. The story focuses on Callie as she begins to move on from mourning her death and learning how to cope with establishing a new existence.
The story opens a week after Above finished off. Callie now facing the challenge of helping Erin cope with her recent death, and deciding where her Guardian duties lie with a Watched that has passed.
All of the characters from the first installment return, as well as a new swell of students as Callie graduates from a First level to a Second. After will dive deeper into the process of what it is to become a Guardian with a handful of new classes and teachers. The reader will see new sides of Frankie, Ansley, Riley, Blaize and Kate, as Callie discovers their own struggles with their Watched. The relationship between Kate and Callie develops as they are forced to face each other in detention. By the end of the novel, the secret between their animosities will be unravel.
As always with teenagers romance and lust runs swiftly throughout the book. Callie and Logan pick up where they left off, trying to figure out how to build a relationship without any secrets. Their relationship is put to the test when Callie’s love interest from life, Chase, passes away. Suddenly, we see Callie being pulled between her old self and the new person she has become. Chase knows Calllie how she was. He opens her mind to the world of death outside of Guardians. Ace becomes a much bigger part of Callie’s existence, as both of them begin to recover from their Peresprit attack and learn how to confront the situation. An underlying romance will start to lay its roots as we see Callie understand and relate to Ace in a completely different way than Logan. Ace will develop as a character, his feelings for Callie deeper than physical attraction.
The plotlines with Mr. West will develop, as Callie starts to witness the true power behind him and the help that he can provide her. Callie’s grandmother remains a constant looming presence of wisdom as she melds Callie into fighting for what she believes in and addressing the issue of the Peresprits.
In her second level Callie will receive another Watched. The boy is 11-years-old and his name is Carson. He has been introduced in Above by a note in a flashback Callie has at her old neighborhood bakery. Carson’s mother is dying of lung cancer and we see him struggle with understanding death and what it is to die. Callie provides a comfort having experienced it herself. We see Callie struggle to promise hope and learn to help someone else deal with death. By the end of the novel the mother passes and Callie witnesses the fact that she can change her own life by changing someone else’s.
As a character Callie continues to grow and discover her purpose as a Guardian. Her power to connect with both worlds heightens and she finds herself battling to draw the line between her life and others. It starts to appear that she can tap into others true selves and memories. It begins to add a pressure of losing herself amongst them, which erupts in erratic behavior. By the end of the novel she will start to discover why.
Callie’s family returns as she starts to build a relationship with them beyond death. Callie contemplates her place in her family’s life besides a devastating loss.
The looming threat of Peresprits grows stronger. We see the teachers face the reality of their danger. Ace and Callie further their efforts for training. The climax of the novel develops around the kidnapping of Erin and Frankie. Callie feels the duty to go after them although Logan discourages it entirely. True to her character, Callie follows her intuition, vowing to not let one more person slip from her grasp. Ace joins in with her as the two of them put their skills to the test and track down the girls. The time between Callie and Ace strengthens their relationship and causes them to test their friendship. In an act of protection against Frankie, Ace lets the Peresprit change him into one of them, proving to Callie that he can love— something she questions from his hard exterior.
After is about everything that follows death, when life slowly slips away and a new reality takes place. For Callie it’s the only one she will know.