I have been struggling with what to write about Anna Todd's After since I read it back in February. On the one hand, I couldn't put it down. On the other, it features one of the most messed up love stories I've ever read. Conflicted, I am.
Here's the synopsis:
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?
There was the time before Tessa met Hardin, and then there’s everything AFTER ... Life will never be the same.
Before I dive into the review, I will confirm that yes, this is the One Direction fanfiction book that was published on Wattpad. I don't know much about One Direction (and knew even less when I read the book, which was pre-Zayn leaving the band...and yes, I did have to Google his name to make sure I spelled it correctly) but I like to bop along to their music when it comes on the radio. So, the fact that Todd wrote this series with the band in mind played no part in my decision to read it. I was drawn in based on the synopsis alone.
I am completely over the "good girl meets total badass" storyline in New Adult. Just done. I probably wouldn't have minded too much with this one if it hadn't seemed like Tessa was totally abandoning who she was pre-Hardin. College is a time of discovering yourself, yes, but there are still some qualities that are quite defined by the time you turn 18. Not being treated like shit by someone is one of those qualities and I couldn't believe that Tessa was allowing Hardin to treat her like he was.
Ok. That was the major issue for me with this book. Hardin is awful to Tessa. And I really don't think I had a problem with it simply because I'm almost ten years older than these characters (good lord, has it really been almost ten years since I started university?). I can understand that Hardin has some serious issues. That's ok. But that is absolutely no excuse for being an asshole towards the girl you want to date. He's crazy jealous which is stupid because he also sometimes acts like he wants nothing to do with her in public. Or even in private sometimes. There were times he almost redeemed himself because I could see that he kinda sorta wanted to try to be a better person. But then he'd screw up again. And he screwed up big time at the end. I really couldn't believe how awful he was. It's mind boggling.
And yet, I couldn't put the damn book down. There was something addictive about it. And I don't think it was the good kind of addictive. I imagine the pull I felt towards this book was similar to the feeling drug addicts have when they're looking for their next hit. Seriously. I know it wasn't really good (PS the writing in this one isn't super great either) but something kept pulling me back in.
Part of me wants to read the rest of the series to see if Hardin gets his act together and if Tessa grows a backbone. But the other part of me cannot bear to read any more about this unhealthy relationship.
So...do I think you should read After? Not really. Anna Todd came up with an intriguing idea, One Direction fanfiction, but she also came up with one of the most unhealthy romantic relationships ever. At the risk of sounding old and overprotective of teens, this is not a book you want your teenage daughter, friend, niece, whatever to be reading. I do not want girls of any age thinking that she can change the guy she's dating, not when he continually treats her like crap. And, ok, fine, I probably would read After I Collided, book two in the series, if it fell into my lap. I just can't look away.
*A copy of this novel was provided by the publisher, Simon & Schuster Canada, in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*