Over the Christmas holidays, I was in my local Barnes & Noble browsing the Romance novels (because that’s my favorite, these days), and on the endcap, I saw Anna Todd’s books. Because I’m one of those people that unfortunately judges a book by its cover, the beautiful, yet simple covers drew me in. Curious, I picked up the first book and started reading the blurb on the back.
I fell in love.
It’s not often that a blurb on the back of a book can pull me in so fiercely, but for some reason, the blurb on After did. Perhaps it’s because the books focused on college aged students, or perhaps it’s because I needed a bit of angsty romance in my life. Whatever the reason, I had a $25 gift card and purchased the first three books (two of which were on sale).
I tore through those books so quickly. I had to order the fourth book within a week.
These books tend to get bad press and low reviews. They’re compared to Fifty Shades of Grey, people say the writing is poor, it’s said that Hardin is emotionally abusive toward Tessa. Whatever the reasons behind it, the books aren’t thought that highly of in the eyes of scholars.
However, I’m a senior English major in college with plans to continue my education by getting a Master’s in English Lit, and I can say that I truly loved these books. They easily top my list of favorite books.
I won’t spoil what happens in the books because I hate when other people do that. However, I will give a brief overview.
The series follows Tessa, a good girl who wears long skirts and conservative clothing with a mother who expects too much out of her and a boyfriend who has been her rock through her childhood, and Hardin, the bad boy, loaded with tattoos and piercings who curses frequently and fights his way out of trouble. When the two meet, a whirlwind of crazy stirs up, and their lives are never the same.
Though the two aren’t taken with each other at first, it doesn’t take long before they’re immediately drawn to each other and unable to stay out of the other’s sight. Of course, things are never easy for Hardin and Tessa. Hardin is stuck in his bad boy, womanizing ways, and Tessa is riding a thin line between her old self and her newfound freedom. The two’s difference in lifestyles and personalities cause them to clash every other day, but their feelings for one another keep them coming back for more.
Tessa changes Hardin, and Hardin changes Tessa, and inevitably, the two fall in love. However, throughout the entire series, Hardin and Tessa do things to hurt one another. They fight, they scream, they cry, they break up and make up, have passionate sex, leave one another, make each other jealous, and so much more. Their tumultuous relationship, on the surface, seems so unhealthy, but their love for one another makes it impossible to stop reading.
These books… I don’t even have proper words. The writing is beautiful, the stories in each book are intense and intricate and insane, and the relationship is so powerful. I typically don’t cry over books, but a couple of times, I found myself crying over Hardin’s actions or Tessa’s feelings or Hardin’s jealousy or Tessa’s situation.
The first book is told solely from Tessa’s point of view. However, books two, three, and four (After We Collided, After We Fell, and After Ever Happy respectively) are told in both Tessa and Hardin’s point of view. Because of this, Hardin easily became my favorite character.
I loved Hardin’s mind and reading his thoughts. It communicated so well just how much he loves Tessa. I looked forward to Hardin’s point of view every time Tessa’s came back. I love how complicated and twisted and romantic and sweet Hardin is. He can be a complete asshole, but he’s so lovable that you just can’t help rooting for him. The changes that can be seen in him from the first page of After to the last page of After Ever Happy is astronomical, and it’s a complete pleasure to read.
Tessa’s thoughts and choices can be quite infuriating sometimes, but I understand why she did everything she did in the series. Her actions show how love can truly change you, whether it’s for the better or worse.
The secondary characters in the novel are phenomenal as well. Landon, one of my favorites, always stole the scene when he was present, as did Zed. Even though they were secondary characters, I found myself rooting for them, too, even though Zed’s interests weren’t always pure.
I adore angst. I just do. I can’t explain why, but angsty romances draw me in. Even though I felt completely sorry for the two main characters, their fights and heartbreaks and screaming matches drew me in. I was addicted, as horrible as it sounds. The ups and the downs and the make ups and the break ups kept me turning each page. Anna Todd writes them in a way to where you feel like you’re right there with Hardin and Tessa, and by doing so, Anna shows her true talent at writing.
If you like angsty, New Adult, sexy romances, this series is for you. Don’t let the One Direction fanfiction label scare you away. It’s amazing, and One Direction should be honored Anna Todd wrote this with them as inspiration. It’s a beautiful, moving, tearjerker rollercoaster of a ride, and I’m so happy I purchased those books that day at Barnes & Noble.
I haven’t read Before yet, but as soon as my school semester ends, I plan to read it! I know it’ll be just as wonderful, if not more so.
My favorite novel of the series was the first book, After. I loved the introduction to Hardin and Tessa’s lives and relationships and ultimately seeing how their relationship played out. It kept me on my toes the entire time, and I loved reading their dialogue and exchanges. The sex scenes, in this book and throughout the whole series, are well-written and not cheesy in the slightest.
Overall, this series deserves a golden star and is worth the purchase. Thank you, Anna, for writing such an amazing, rollercoaster of a series and for giving us Hessa. I can’t wait for more books!