Book Review : After by Anna Todd

After (The After Series Book 1)

Author : Anna Todd
Published By : Gallery Books
Year Published : 2014
Genre / Tags : Romance, Contemporary, New Adult
Formats : Paperback, eBook, Audiobook
# of Pages : 582 pages (Paperback)

Summary

Tessa is a good girl with a sweet, reliable boyfriend back home. She’s got direction, ambition, and a mother who’s intent on keeping her that way. 

But she’s barely moved into her freshman dorm when she runs into Hardin. With his tousled brown hair, cocky British accent, tattoos, and lip ring, Hardin is cute and different from what she’s used to. 

But he’s also rude—to the point of cruelty, even. For all his attitude, Tessa should hate Hardin. And she does—until she finds herself alone with him in his room. Something about his dark mood grabs her, and when they kiss it ignites within her a passion she’s never known before. 

He’ll call her beautiful, then insist he isn’t the one for her and disappear again and again. Despite the reckless way he treats her, Tessa is compelled to dig deeper and find the real Hardin beneath all his lies. He pushes her away again and again, yet every time she pushes back, he only pulls her in deeper. 

Tessa already has the perfect boyfriend. So why is she trying so hard to overcome her own hurt pride and Hardin’s prejudice about nice girls like her? 

Unless…could this be love?

Now newly revised and expanded, Anna Todd’s After fanfiction racked up 1 billion reads online and captivated readers across the globe. Experience the Internet’s most talked-about book for yourself!

There was the time before Tessa met Hardin, and then there’s everything AFTER … Life will never be the same.

Review

Warning, rant review ahead!

I want to start this review out by stating that despite my literary faves, I am in no way above reading utter nonsense if it sounds entertaining. I’m even going to proceed to make a dark and embarrassing confession right now- I have Naruto fanfics in my favorites on fanfiction.net that I read on occasion when I’m bored.

That’s not the confession. The confession is that one of them made me cry and would probably still make me cry.

This might be embarrassing, but still not as embarrassing as some of the goings-on in After.

Speaking of that favorites list, at least a few of the fics were written by pre-teens. All of whom created stories with better writing, plotting, and dialogue than is contained in After.

Going back to the fanfic thing and how I am totally open to what would be considered “low fiction”, there was a fan fiction based off of an old Playstation game called Legend Of Mana. I read it obsessively. The author made some original characters that I still remember vividly and adore. There was a character in it named Snow I think? He didn’t exist in the game but the author was talented enough to make me love him.

The site went offline a bunch of years ago. The author disappeared into internet oblivion, and I had emailed some random person involved with them if they happened to have a backup of that fic but alas, no reply. The fic is nowhere online and I never downloaded it, so it may be gone forever. My heart is still broken over that.

Oh yeah, back to After. It’s terrible in every sense. Even in the in-the-mood-for-stupidest-guilty-pleasure sense, it doesn’t deliver anything worthwhile. Even by fanfic standards, I think it’s a bad fanfic.

Lets start with the heroine, Tessa. She is the worst.

I fear that After’s success will lead to a million copycats with a million heroines whose favorite band on the entire face of the earth is The Fray for some reason (The Fray??!? no offense to fans though, but I’m pretty sure even The Fray themselves would be confused) who beg their boyfriends to mistreat them, and have a noticeable disdain for all other girls in the narrative who do literally NOTHING to deserve mistreatment. Moreover, Tessa is bankrupt of morals enough to think about cheating on a boyfriend without feeling guilty, yet still feels the need to criticize girls for how they dress. What?

Tessa just hates girls, I’m saying that now. It’s like she gains some special energy from hating them, energy that she can put toward mindlessly fawning over a guy who detests her and treating a few other special guys with some level of decency. I looked up the names of all the guys Tessa seems to be OK with by the way….. and they were all based off of members of One Direction.

So there was another fanfic author that was gifted and I was very much adoring their work. They posted an ominous message and disappeared from the internet, never to return. This was ten years ago or so.

I really don’t understand how the universe works in that all the fanfics I like get swallowed into the internet maw while some of the not-so-great ones become mega-successful sensations. I’m pretty sure the land of fanfic authoring is accursed, probably by a spirit that seeks to troll the reading world.

So another problem with After-

It comes off so forced, as if written under duress. Like it doesn’t want to be written and is the product of some kind of scenario similar to Stephen King’s book, Misery. Many chapters are retreads of previous chapters, with only a few details changed. Maybe there was a bomb that would go off if the chapter had not been finished that day? So it had to be written despite containing no ideas! Pondering this possibility was more exciting than reading After. There are entire chapters where nothing remotely noteworthy or new happens. Or chapters where a thing happens that already happened three chapters ago. Why is it happening again?? I have a memory like a goldfish and could still tell that this was a constant issue.

So your question at this point may be “Why did you keep reading?”

Two reasons. Reason number one, a close friend of mine was reading so we were pseudo-buddyreading it and I was desperate at the time to buddy read with someone IRL. Reason two, I have been led to books with bad reputations before via rant reviews not unlike this one. I didn’t hate all of them. Or maybe I disliked them in part but liked them overall.

One that stands out in particular is November 9 by Colleen Hoover. There are a lot of worthy criticisms that can be foisted upon that book (and I agree with pretty much all of them) but I enjoyed reading it.

There’s something about the flow of the first 50-100 pages or so of After that kept me wondering, optimistically, if it would go somewhere good. The heroine is a fish out of water, a tremendously prissy prep school cliche of a girl who is suddenly faced with people very different from her.

There was ample opportunity for a worthwhile story to unfurl from that, but it never does. I would even go so far as to say that the ending of this novel (no spoilers intended) only seeks to confirm and somehow justify Tessa’s snobbery toward the undesirables of society.

Added note, Tessa’s mother is a really bad person and is at least 50% responsible for Tessa’s bad traits and closemindedness. She is also not properly dealt with or called out. I’m almost curious to see if she is ever meaningfully criticized for her behavior in future books- but I cannot read any more of this series without dying inside. So, if a person who has read these books happens upon this post, feel free to let me know in the comments.

As for the guy, Hardin, I can understand the appeal. He acts incorrigible and impossible to deal with and this can create a great sort of “Challenge Accepted!” scenario of trying to work out how the couple can possibly end up together. I’ve been there before with digging this type of thing. Romances that are a maze of improbability can just be so much more entertaining than insta-love and/or unchallenging and paint-by-number romance scenarios. But all other aspects of this book work against whatever intrigue could have emerged. His eventual sob story to explain his behavior is very ineffective. And he does something particularly foul toward the end that makes him irredeemably trashy and gross, so there’s that.

Overall Rating – 1/10

Why You Should Try It – If you happen to connect with the characters, this could be enjoyable as a very character-driven story. Hardin can be worthwhile if he’s to your niche tastes. The writing (and perhaps editing?) is high in clarity and fast-moving, and could have worked out if everything else were different.

Why You Might Not Like It – The plot is distressingly same-y or just doesn’t exist. Lots of repetitive, stubbornly repeated scenarios. Or just nothing happening. The heroine is just awful. Hardin’s actions are pretty much unforgivable.

After (The After Series Book 1) (Amazon Link)

To anyone who likes After and somehow stumbled upon this review, I hope to not offend anyone with my thoughts. There are books and media that I like that are heavily criticized, high levels of problematic, and/or or not critically acclaimed. There’s a book that I love that someone literally stomped on in a fit of rage due to some awful events within (if you’re reading this, I still lol at that memory and totally understand.)

Basically my motto is to like whatever you like, regardless of people’s opinions. Don’t feel too guilty about your guilty pleasures. At least have fun with it.


Many thanks to Kumamon for being adorable, pictured in all the gifs above. He is the hero we deserve. And many thanks to you for putting up with this chaotic review. I hope you enjoyed reading it. I would love to hear your thoughts, as always!

3 thoughts on “Book Review : After by Anna Todd

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