Title: After Us (Before & After #2)
Author: Amber Hart
Publication date: December 2, 2014
Number of pages: 368
Source: Arc received by courtesy of Netgalley – thank you!
In a nutshell: Strong sequel to the first book
|Sometimes secrets kill. Maybe slowly, maybe painfully. Maybe all at once.
Melissa smiles. She flirts. She jokes. But she never shows her scars. Eight months after tragedy ripped her from her closest friend, Melissa is broken. Plagued by grief, rage, and the painful memory of a single forbidden kiss.
Two broken souls could make each other whole again—or be shattered forever.
Our time will come. And we’ll be ready.
I am not lying when I say that After Us was probably one of my most anticipated reads last year. If you are into books that deal with culture clashes (which are rarities in the literature world, but there has been a promising trend in the last few months/last year) you definitely do not want to miss this one. I think I almost experienced a meltdown, anxious to be rejected when I hit “request review book” on NetGalley and basically…nothing happened for the next few hours.
What if I’m not good enough to be approved for this book? What if the peeps of the publicity team are mean sadists? These were the questions running through my head during those…I don’t know, 12 never-ending hours? Fortunately, I must have been a good girl last year since Santa decided to give me an early present — my request was mysteriously approved!
This review might contain some spoilers if you haven’t read the previous book yet
Anyway, I jumped right into reading this book and the first word that popped up in my mind was hot. And I do not only mean Javier’s physical attraction (don’t worry, Javier has plenty of it), but more importantly, the relationship between Javier and Melissa. Because what they basically do throughout the book, is playing with fire. Decisions have to be made, but to what extend are they willing to hurt each other? Secrets overshadow their relationship, and in the end it is all about not getting burned
(that fire metaphor sounds smart, right?)
The story of After Us picks up a few months after Before You. Whilst the book does not star Faith and Diego – the two main characters in the first book – the story is directly connected to the previous book. Also, it of course does not mean that the read was less intense.
We meet Melissa and Javier as two broken characters — Javier cannot get over the fact that Diego – his cousin, his best friend, his brother – was killed by a gang, and Melissa — well, that was definitely an interesting story: While she was introduced to us readers as a cheerful and always-caring character in Book 1, it quickly becomes clear at the beginning of Book 2 that she has changed throughout the last few months. We can still see lots of her happiness in the story, especially when she spends her time together with Javier, but her character is also so full of sadness this time. She is hiding a secret which runs much deeper than you would expect it, so the story also has got that emotional twist.
Javier, on the other hand, was so much more than that flirtatious guy I initially thought of. Whilst there were lots of moments in the book where he almost crossed my tolerance limit on head-over-heels-actions (I mean seriously. It can only go wrong when you join a gang in order to take revenge. It is a matter of fact that we have learned from many films and books. Decisions fuelled by anger are always doomed to failure), you simply cannot look over the fact that he is a character with a big heart. There were many obstacles in Javier and Melissa’s relationship that I definitely did not expect which mostly reflected the conflicts Latino families are facing in America. For example Javiers’s mom disapproval of “white girls”. Javier always stayed true to his character, standing by his opinion and defending his love to Melissa. Melissa and Javier complement each other, and the story was not about why they are broken but how they make each other whole again. It is not about playing with fire but taking risks by opening up to people that truly love you.
That being said, I do have to say that there were some bits and pieces in the plot that were a little bit too oversimplified for my liking, especially Melissa and Faith’s friendship. Whilst I did understand Faith’s motives for her disappearance, Melissa was sometimes a bit too forgiving and patient. Moreover, her secret could have been further explored because the pain she was going through was a little bit too predictable, if that makes any sense? But this really is just a first world problem on my behalf.
Nonetheless, Hart does not hold back in this book. Instead, she goes to full extremes – each sentence is more emotional, deeper, more powerful. The plot becomes more and more fast-paced throughout the book, and by the end, I was literally gasping from the emotional roller coaster. If you nearly got a heart attack in the first book, this time your heart will drop into your gut. With all the action scenes in this book (Javier is seriously badass), coupled with all those twists and turns of events, the book was unputdownable.
Guys, I may have fallen in love with this series. Diversity in literature is shown at its best in Hart’s books, defying norms in our society with three-dimensionality created by words. This book is different from any YA book in the YA universe, so if you want to read something new (as in unusual or extraordinary) I can only recommend it to you.