After: A Rant Review
March 11, 2020
After: A Rant Review (Mild Spoilers)
Warning: After contains explicit language and sexual content
Young Adult fiction is the umbrella genre that allows for any story one wishes to convey for an audience within the range of twelve to eighteen. In recent years, many novels of the YA variety have made a start on various unofficial publishing websites such as Fanfiction.net, Deviantart, and recently, Wattpad. Through the years, novels ranging from Divergent (Veronica Roth) and Cinder (Marissa Meyer) found a start through unofficial internet fame. And, unfortunately, so has After.
Written by Anna Todd, and officially published on October 21, 2014, After begins by introducing the protagonist Tessa Young, an innocent young woman on her way to Washington Central University. However, almost immediately upon arrival she meets Hardin Scott, a classic bad boy, who Tessa grudgingly becomes attached to. Throughout her relationship with Hardin, Tessa experiences new emotions- those of which she had never seemed to feel with her previous boyfriend Noah.
After was originally a 1Direction fan fiction published to Wattpad primarily in 2013. Hardin having initially been Harry Styles. This is not uncommon in writing communities like Wattpad, and has even become fairly mainstream to republish fan fiction. It is also common for these stories to undergo rushed and minimal editing, in After this is evident.
The prose, the nonexistent plot, the cliche and faulty characters- All of which could and should have been corrected in the editing process. Perhaps most essentially, the characters, as the story revolves around them.
Tessa is the self-insert “I’m-not-like-other-girls” archetype. She constantly internalizes her misogyny, applauds herself for being “different,” and forgives her cruel behavior towards her boyfriend because of her love for Hardin.
So buckle up for the broody, abusive, indecisive, Edward Cullen-but-worse character that is Hardin Scott. He, for the fan fiction, was innocently meant simply to be the petulant and “dangerous” bad boy: the enigma that Tessa was meant to solve and fix. However, in the book he evolved into the listed above creature that encourages and instigates the wrongful behavior of Tessa. He also manipulates her, hurts her emotionally and he tries to set her off rhythm any way he can.
Essentially, the main love interest pair is the most dislikable dynamic available to modern day literature.
All adaptations of After, the fan fiction, book, and the 2019 movie, pose themselves as something equal to or on par with classic romances like Elizabeth and Mr Darcy, Gatsby and Daisy; this is a very common thread in- usually bad -YA fiction. And, sadly, bad adult fiction.
After is honestly a version of Fifty Shades of Grey for teenagers. It contains the same amount of sexual content- which is entirely unnecessary to the plot, while maintaining Fifty’s bad, droning prose. After is a five hundred page rip off of one of literature’s biggest mistakes. Better suited for a landfill, After may rest easy in my mind as little more than regret for ever having spent time reading it.