After the First Death is a novel by award winning writer Robert Cormier. In this novel, Miro, a Middle Eastern teenager, and a small group of his fellow countrymen hijack a bus filled with five-year-old children on their way to summer day camp. These hijackers believe they are fighting for their homeland, a country they have never seen. Kate, the teenage bus driver, finds herself drawn into a drama with a bunch of kids she barely knows. Ben Marchand, another teen, finds himself drawn into the drama as well, destined to experience events that will color the rest of his life as well as his relationship with his own father. After the First Death is a complicated story that shows how violence changes and ruins all lives touched by it, even those who perpetrate it.
Ben Marchand sits in his room anticipating the visit of his father with much trepidation. Ben has not seen his father since the bus hijacking and worries about seeing his father with the knowledge of how he let him down that fateful day. Ben thinks of committing suicide, but hopes to seek forgiveness from his father first.
At the same time Ben tells his story, the reader learns about the events of the bus hijacking from Miro, the youngest member of the terrorist group. Miro had recently turned sixteen, at least by the birth date assigned him in the refugee camp, and his leader Artkin promises to treat him like a man during the hijacking. In fact, Miro is to kill the bus driver, his first act of manhood.
The driver is instructed to drive onto an old railroad bridge while Artkin feeds the children candy laced with a drug meant to keep them quiet. Unfortunately, with the accidental drug overdose of one of the small children on the bus, Miro is cheated of the murder he is to commit. Instead, Artkin orders the young female bus driver to help keep the children calm. The child's death provides Artkin with the threat he needs to use against the officials being notified of the hijacking at that very moment.