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After by Anna Todd (After series #1)

There’s a special place in my heart for drama-filled romance. Specifically, like the one in the After series by Anna Todd. I think the same rings true for mainstream culture. After all, a few short years ago, the Fifty Shades of Grey series was all the rage. And before that, there was Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series. Young people love a juicy romance.

In fact, they love it so much it seems these kinds of YA/NA romance books-turned-movies are becoming more and more prevalent. Twilight opened in US theaters in 2008. Fifty Shades opened in 2015. And in 2019, After was released. At the time I’m writing this, After series book 2: After We Collided is set to open in theaters possibly in April. That’s a whole lotta love-drama in the last 12 years alone.

Update: as of June 27, coronavirus is still shutting everything down. TBD on theater date, but I’ve heard whispers of late August 2020. But who the hell really knows.

Now, I never finished the Fifty Shades series—it was too outlandish for me and Christian Grey wasn’t very likable in my opinion—but I did adore the Twilight books. They reminded me of a time in my youth when I was new and just wanted to make friends. To have a crush and fall in love. To inevitably get my heart broken and then have to pick up its bloody pieces. Even with the vampires and shapeshifting werewolves, the characters in Twilight still felt relatable.

And that’s why I’m a total fangirl when it comes to the Hessa saga in Anna Todd’s After series. The relationship between Tessa Young and Hardin Scott is so completely and utterly relatable.

Josephine Langford as Tessa Young in After by Anna Todd | Story Darling

What is After by Anna Todd about?

I’m not the least bit embarrassed to say that I had no idea this was even based on a book series. As a 34-year-old mom of a toddler, keeping up with pop culture phenomenons is a luxury I’m rarely afforded these days. It was November 2019, and I remember looking for something steamy and sweet that I could watch as I tried to forget about the horrible stress of my then job. I needed an escape. Enter Netflix.

I watched the After movie on Netflix before reading the Anna Todd books

After having watched The Kissing Booth, Netflix’s magical algorithms recommended a movie called After. So I clicked on the preview. First love, an English accent, snippets about Pride and Prejudice, and lovers quoting Wuthering Heights? SOLD!

I mean, just watch this trailer:

It didn’t have the giddy, happily ever after I expected. In fact, the movie simply closed with an open-ended scene between Tessa and Hardin. That couldn’t be everything, could it? So then I googled whether it had a sequel. And that’s when I found out After was actually based on a book series by Wattpad sensation, Anna Todd. Jackpot! Translation: bring on the binge reading.

Book review: After

Even though I docked one star on Goodreads, this book will forever be one of my favorite love stories to come back to. I was looking for an escape and I got one. Todd’s writing made me feel connected to Tessa and Hardin. It seemed like every scene transported me back to my own years at college when I was innocent and naive and jumping from one toxic relationship to another. It reminded me of my hard journey to self-discovery—not just with my body and sexuality—but in how I let others treat me. The pressures of doing well in school while trying to navigate the confusing maze of falling in love. False friendships. Everything.

Like I said before, relatable.

Hero Fiennes Tiffin as Hardin Scott in After by Anna Todd | Story Darling

I didn’t read the original Wattpad version (I’ve only skimmed), but obviously, Anna Todd uncovered an enormous Hessa fanbase in creating this story. It seems the experiences between its two main characters really hit home with readers. I suspect many have experienced first love and betrayal, family drama, unhealthy and abusive relationships, and this perpetual cycle of knowing right from wrong but feeling helpless to let it go. I think that’s what makes this story so compelling.

Reading After felt long and drawn out at times, but I can’t really knock it for that. As it read, it evoked the same feelings and thoughts I’ve had when experiencing similar circumstances in my own life. You make mistakes over and over again. Some lessons take years to sink in, and people naturally change over the course of their lives.

That’s where Anna Todd shines with After.

If you need more Hessa drama, check out my review of After series book #2: After We Collided by Anna Todd. Update: The AWC launches in the US on October 2, 2020!

Have you read this book? What did you think? Comment below so we can talk about it! 🖤

By Sandra Gibbons

Reader. Writer. Recluse. Loves K-dramas and video games. And coffee. Always the coffee.

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