After We Fell by Anna Todd | Rating: ★★☆☆☆ (2.5)
“I have come to learn that the people who pretend to care the least actually care the most."
Anna Todd’s proven she can pen a sloppy yet utterly addictive story with the immensely popular After series–it’s something you simply cannot look away from, even if you want to so desperately. Which I’ve wanted to ditch it this entire time, I just couldn’t bring myself to put it down.
I’ve used the comparison before: it’s a train wreck you cannot put down.
This one, though, has an important trigger warning I need to point out before exploring my thoughts on it: someone is drugged by a “friend” and nearly taken advantage of. I wasn’t expecting it and wasn’t warned so it really, really caught me off guard and I don’t want anyone else to have to deal with that.
Back to Anna Todd…
Her formula has always been so simple: spinning out a tale of twisted love and dark emotions, she has captivated a younger audience instantly due to its origins as a One Direction fanfiction. Readers have fallen in love with Hardin and Tessa’s relationship when they really, really shouldn’t–I just hope no young girls wind up in danger on their quest to find their own Hardin Scott.
That’s what makes me nervous about the popularity of stories such as After and Fifty Shades and the weak and trashy adaptation of Gossip Girl (Chuck Bass, anyone?)–it’s that young girls are getting it into their minds that these relationships are the ultimate goals in romance.
That men like Hardin Scott, Chuck Bass and Christian Grey are great and that relationships like this are epic loves. So as usual, I need to stress this: ladies and gentlemen, these are only stories. Please don’t be heavily influenced by them. Devour them like the soapy goodness that they are but do not use it as inspiration for your own lives.
That being said, After We Fell proves to be just addictive as the last two except with a whole lot of unexpected plot twists that will leave your jaws on the floor. Back is the dramatics that come with Hardin and Tessa’s love story; their on and off nature is frustrating and told in cringe-worthy circles and if you were expecting any different, your hopes will be dashed.
While the two have made improvements to their relationship, it still is a very bumpy romance. As Tessa prepares to move to Seattle, Landon plans to move to New York to be with his long time girlfriend Dakota, and Harden makes an incredible effort to save himself from his own worst enemy; the stakes are higher than ever for these college students.
We see the inclusion of other minor characters of the past: Steph, Molly, Logan, Zed, Nate, Tristan and Trevor. Zed is just as persistent as ever in his attempts to sway Tessa into a relationship with him. We’re introduced to new characters along the way, too, in particular Lillian and Riley who are essentially Tessa and Hardin’s counterpart in messy relationships.
Lillian is an absolute angel and I really hope we get to see more of her. She’s a lot like Tessa except perhaps more ballsy and it makes me want to get to know her more. I like how she handles Hardin and doesn’t put up with his crap, because she knows not to based on her own girlfriend; I think she and Tessa could be great friends and learn from each other.
Here’s to hoping, right?
(I also fancy the idea of someone pushing Lillian's father off a cliff but you know.)
Tessa’s father makes a reappearance. This is an important part to the novel as a whole and sets the stage for a new level of darkness and struggles as you realize just how much danger he is putting himself in–as well as his daughter and Hardin. You sort of can’t help but to want him to get better for Tessa’s sake and I think the fact that Hardin and Landon try to help the man was one of the best, most heartfelt, parts of Todd’s story to date.
Which leads us to the plots, new and those that are just a rehash from the first two books. Anna Todd’s writing is in real time, so as each character is experiencing changes and life; the reader is too. Because of its format, reading is a breeze of emotion and exploration.
And with the experience of university, moving and growing up comes explainable heartbreak, confessions and betrayal. There are changes left and right for both Tessa and Hardin–a lot of them are painful; especially the betrayal Tessa finds herself face to face with when Steph reveals she has never been her friend, that Zed didn’t steal Hardin’s phone and text her on his birthday and also attempts to have Dan molest a drugged Tessa on camera.
Which was totally out of my mind. I liked Steph up until this point and didn’t expect it at all. I’m serious, I really and truly wasn’t expecting it; if anything I would have thought Molly would be the one to do such a thing.
I mean, what was the point? I still don’t understand Steph’s motives… it was for revenge? She was obsessed with Hardin? Uh?? She’s so gross I cannot find the words.
I have to say, I was surprised to find that I didn’t hate Molly this time around–not like I had in the past, anyway. Let me explain: yes, she still is an asshole and yes, I still don’t like her.
But she’s got my respect for not being a total psychopath like Steph.
If Molly hadn’t raised the flag to help Tessa by grabbing the attention of Hardin, if Zed hadn’t come into the room, things would have been much, much worse–the fact that she was the only one to object and help stop Steph’s plans showed a different side of her and really surprised me.
All this time, I thought she had the power to hurt Tessa most out of Hardin’s “friends”–but it was Steph. Knowing the girl was pretending to be Tessa’s friend makes the betrayal all the worse and I’m so glad our girl was able to move away from this cold hearted bitch. I hope she lost more than just Tristan in the process.
As for the rest of the story, it’s very much so a coming of age tale. I liked that elements of family and growing up and bonding that came with it; Landon and Hardin working together to help Tessa’s father, Hardin calling Tessa’s mom for help. There were a lot of parts I liked about the portrayal of all of this: growing up and working together.
I was thrown for a loop once more beyond the Steph situation: I couldn’t believe the situation Hardin walked in on, on the eve of his mothers wedding. I’m not going to spoil it, but holy shit. I really wasn’t expecting this hookup nor was I expecting the revelation of who Hardin’s dad really is.
Although, come to think of it, I probably should have.
That being said, After We Fell isn’t the next great literary romance. In spite of its comparisons, this isn’t the best love story of our generation or any–but its soapy and dramatically fun that you can’t help but to be intrigued throughout. It's twisty, it's dramatic, it's full of revelations and is just entertaining.