If there was ever a more realistic representation of where today’s passionate romances tend to go, After Ever Happy by Anna Todd illustrates it perfectly.
The After series isn’t your typical feel-good love story that so many romance books tell. Rather than star-crossed lovers who have to overcome so many external conflicts (completely out of their control), to end up together, Todd’s story highlights the major issues within Hardin and Tessa. This story really isn’t about anything or anyone else—it’s about them.
In After, an innocent Tessa Young goes away to college where she meets an unlikely crew of friends and bad boy, Hardin Scott. Book one is about getting a chance to figure out who she is and what she really wants while navigating social pressures. Similarly to Hardin, she has a very strong idea of who she thinks she is, and it’s this misguided self-assurance for each of them that causes so many problems in their relationship.
Once again, Anna Todd left us with a cliffhanger in AWF. We’re told at the start of AEH a huge truth. SPOILERS AHEAD: Chancellor Scott isn’t Hardin’s real dad. It seems Mum had a passionate love affair with his best friend, Christian Vance. And PSA: there are still sparks between them. Even as she marries a different man. Oof.
After Ever Happy summary
I thought the third book in the series was harsh, but AEH is somehow worse. Hardin being Hardin spirals into being a dickhead again and dumps Tessa while they’re in London for his mother’s wedding. Upon hearing about his mom and Vance, he boycotts the wedding, brawls, sets his childhood home on fire, leaves Tessa, and then runs back to his ratty-ass group of friends and getting wasted.
Meanwhile, Tessa is suffering. Her spirit and sense of self have been pulverized. She’s alone and completely heartbroken. She’s coping with the painful news that she can’t have children. So after Hardin ghosts her, she leaves London solo and heads back to their shared apartment to pack things up.
And that’s when Tessa goes off the rails.
Alone, she discovers her addict father’s corpse. Hardin isn’t there, her mother isn’t there. No one is there for her. She just cuddles up beside his body and holds onto him until she comes to at her mother’s house a few days later.
After Ever Happy spans decades. Although things turn out good in the end, I spent the entire 500+ pages with a tightness in my chest and overwhelming sadness that it took so many years for their lives to turn out that way.
Book review: After Ever Happy by Anna Todd
The After series is what really happens in so many relationships like Hessa’s. People are imperfect—they’re selfish and immature, they take a long time to grow up and get their shit together, and they’re stubborn as hell. When two people continually hurt each other, they sabotage their own happiness, even if what they truly want is to be together.
Like the rest of my After reviews, I rated AEH 4 stars on Goodreads. Toward the end of the fourth book, we’re given only quick glimpses into the happiness that eventually finds Tessa and Hardin together. But the ending left me wishing I got the chance to enjoy their happiness a while longer.
It was a sweet end, abrupt, but I wasn’t ready for their story to end.
Still, I will adore this story forever.
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