I'll admit it. I love trashy romance novels.
There's something elusive to a well-done romance novel, an amalgamation of different elements coming together in order to achieve a satisfying story. Anna Todd's "After", a fan fiction turned novel, however, misses the mark completely.
To be quite honest, I missed the entire phenomena of Anna Todd's "After" series. "After" was a popular Wattpad fanfiction featuring One Direction's Harry Styles as the main bad boy with tattoos and piercings. It eventually got picked up and published with all the names changed (think 50 Shades of Grey style). Currently, the original unedited story on Wattpad has over 532 million reads. The novel follows Tessa's first year of college as her life is forever changed when she meets Hardin (changed from Harry). He introduces her to partying, sex, and his reckless but troubled lifestyle.
I never had much interest in these novels but as soon as the trailer for the upcoming film adaptation dropped I knew I had to read it. As a pre-teen that spent a lot of time reading horrible Wattpad novels, this exuded every single trope I loved to hate. I went in knowing very minimal what the story was even about as some of my friends used to be obsessed with it at the time.
There are a lot of problems with the published novel. It went through very minimal editing from its original life as fanfiction, and it's very easy to tell just from the first page. The scenes are short and the worldbuilding is nonexistent. There are so many cringy lines and scenarios that make it so hard to read (like Tessa going to a frat party in a church dress). And the book is long, drawn out, and unnecessary at most parts.
Not to mention that Tessa and Hardin's relationship is downright toxic. There are so many instances where Hardin treats her like garbage, pushes her away, minimizes her feelings, gaslights her, puts her in danger, and yet she still keeps coming back to him. Tessa is continually putting up with his ridiculous antics because she sees that there might be a good guy inside of him after all. Personally, I'm kind of sick of this Beauty and The Beast syndrome, you shouldn't have to take all this emotional abuse in order for your boyfriend to change into a perfect prince. And reading the synopses of the rest of the books, it doesn't look like he changes at all.
To be quite honest, I don't understand the hype of the novel. Perhaps if I had read it when I was younger I would've been captured by Hardin's mysterious bad boy aura. But, now that I'm older and can recognize toxic relationships when I see them, this novel didn't really appeal to me.
Will I watch the film when it comes out? Of course. I personally enjoy watching horrifically cringy teen films. If it's anything like the novel, it'll be as entertaining as watching two trains collide head-on.
"After" premieres in theaters on April 12th.