Rating: 4.5 Stars
Tess is beginning her first year of college where (much to her mother’s horror – and some of her own judgmental horror, as well) she finds she’s rooming with a red-haired, tattooed girl named Steph. Despite the fact that Steph is pretty warm and welcoming, it takes Tessa a while to look past her outward appearance. But when she does she’s pulled into Steph’s world of weekend frat parties and the tattooed bad boys she hangs out with. One in particular is the always asshole: Hardin who can be be counted on to be charming, awful, or indifferent towards Tess at any given time. Still she’s drawn to him and, of course, a romance blossoms. The majority of the 600 pages follows the rollercoaster of her first semester as a freshman and her fast moving relationship with Hardin.
Note: I think it’s important to add that this book started out as 1 Direction fan fiction before it was ultimately turned into the After series.
I’m not going to pick this apart piece by piece because the sheer length of this novel would take me all day to get through. Mind you, I’m not necessarily upset by the volume. Let’s just dive right in.
First and foremost I just want to say that it’s basically Fifty Shades of Grey’s half sister. The similarities are glaringly obvious. Bad boy, good innocent girl somehow find themselves falling for each other. She’s a virgin (of course – what is it with this plot line where the bad boy deflowers the pure innocent girl. Please.) he’s a player to the truest form. Obviously Fifty Shades (as we all should be aware of by now – started out as Twilight fan fiction, just as this one started out as 1 Direction fan fiction.) And I’m not going to lie. Other than the fan fiction starter, I had no clue what this book was about so I was a bit shocked when it got a little more Fifty Shades sexual (minus the kink) than I was expecting, although I’m not against reading books like that in the least. If they’re written well they can be good books with or without the sex. But I guess my biggest complaint about this book and all books like it is that it really truly portrays this idea to women that it’s okay to be in an extremely abusive relationship (whether it’s physical, mental, or emotional abuse) as long as you love him and he says he loves you. And as long as he apologized and promises to never do it again. And listen, that’s a very real trap that a lot of victims of abuse fall into because when we do love someone and someone sometimes acts lovingly towards us, it’s easier to believe them than it is to run.
But this book, like its predecessor, is basically romanticizing the brutality of abusive relationships. Yes, a lot girls like a bad boy. Most girls like the asshole that’s so different from her that it spikes her interest in him. But what novelists need to understand (and what men in general need to understand) is that most women who like the “bad boy” game … don’t want a jackass. They want a jackass who’s a jackass to everyone else but shows love and vulnerability to the woman he loves. No female actually wants to be with a guy who’s awful to her. But of course, the cycle of abuse is always jackass, apology, loving period, jackass, repeat.
But! And this is a but that I hate myself for having. But BUT, none the less. I felt I needed to get that first part off my chest because it truly is reality for some and it’s not something to romanticize. Abuse is abuse, whether it’s domestic or a random stranger physically harming someone. It’s all abuse and it needs to stop being turned into books where young women read and sigh and with they knew a Hardin. Hardin was abusive. Sorry. This idea that he had a traumatizing past that lead him to be an abusive young man is a copout. There are many people who experience awful things in childhood that they are able to find strength in and move forward from. If someone wants help, they will get it. If they don’t want to fix or change who they are, they will never bother to do so.
BUT! BUT. This book was good. It hooked me. I was up and then down and then up and down again throughout the whole thing. It was a good read (if you were able to block out the part of your brain that left you with a jaw dropped whenever Hardin was in his asshole stages.) If you were able to remind yourself that it was a book and none of it actually happened, you can really see why it was captivating. I read through this like a crazy person, waking up in the morning thinking “I need to keep reading.” It’s having the same giant bang in the world that Twilight had, and it will eventually fizzle out as the next one comes along. But no matter what, I’d be a hypocrite if I said I didn’t enjoy this book, and a liar if I told you I didn’t rush out the next day to spend disgusting amounts of money on the rest of the series.
Tessa’s a bit annoying with her innocent mindset (making her a total cliche) thinking Hardin will change. And maybe he does, and maybe he doesn’t. The book left off on an annoying cliff hanger (which I cannot stand in novels) because obviously, with three other books (plus the prequel Before) you know there’s more to this story. And I’m excited to get back to it. Does that make me hate myself a little? Yes. But I’m a reader. And I read the things that make me want to stay up late even though I know I have to wake up in less than four hours for a twelve hour shift. And I’d be a horrible reader if I didn’t read what interested me. This book captured me. I wish the dynamic was written differently between the two. But I guess, since it’s a book, Hardin’s abusive nature will eventually be resolved (hopefully) which is what will set things apart between book and reality.
The movie comes out tomorrow (Friday, April 12, 2019) and I’m going to fit in a viewing after work (even though the idea of going to the movies alone on a Friday night – especially for one that will probably be packed, makes me want to die right here. But at least there will be warm popcorn …) So look forward to my movie review on Saturday!
Disclaimer: All thoughts and opinions are simply my own honest ones and I have not been asked to write this review. Not everyone may agree with my thoughts and that’s okay! I hope you enjoy reading about mine.