Afterlove comes at you strong and fast with a sickly-sweet romance that I completely adored.
Car headlights. The last thing Ash hears is the snap of breaking glass as the windscreen hits her and breaks into a million pieces like stars. But she made it, she’s still here. Or is she?
This New Year’s Eve, Ash gets an invitation from the afterlife she can’t decline: to join a clan of fierce girl reapers who take the souls of the city’s dead to await their fate.
But Ash can’t forget her first love, Poppy, and she will do anything to see her again…even if it means they only get a few more days together. Dead or alive…
Not even death can tear them apart.
This 400-page novel passed in the blink of an eye as I was completely drawn into the romance between Poppy and Ash. It is primarily a romance novel, with half the book dedicated to building the relationship between the girls and ensuring the inevitable heartache is that much more painful. So, thank you, Tanya Byrne, for the emotions. Afterlove truly stirred by heart and I dare anyone to try and resist its charms.
Our main character, Ash, is Indo-Guyanese and proud of it. The first section of Afterlove gives us an insight to her life: her friends, her family, her romantic whims. Byrne did an incredible job of making it feel cosy, real, and familiar, despite my own background being vastly different. I felt welcomed into Ash’s family and my only wish is that these characters — her family and best friend, Adara — had continued to make an appearance once Poppy entered.
I felt incredibly seen in Ash. Her attitude to love spoke directly to the hopeless romantic within me and, honestly, it was a relief to realise that other people get it. That I am not the only one living this life full of feeling and dreams.
The romance is, simply put, adorable. Despite the length of the book, the plot feels incredibly fast which I suppose reflects the teenage dream of a whirlwind romance that takes your breath away. And it certainly does. We see Ash struggle with past heartbreak and the fear that Poppy isn’t truly interested in girls, but not for long. Soon enough the pair are spending all of their time together, and you cannot help but sigh dreamily as they explore the streets of Brighton falling more and more in love.
But, the inevitable must come. Ash must die and our minds must fill with questions about what it means for her and Poppy, how Ash’s family coped, what everyone is doing now. Only some of those questions get answered, which is a little disappointing given how much I grew to love the other side characters. Nevertheless, the second section of Afterlove brings in the fantasy element of reapers, who collect souls of the recently deceased and bring them to Charon’s boat to continue their journey.
I would have liked more time spent on Ash being a reaper: after all, the blurb implies this is what the story is about. Instead this is almost an aside, something to ensure the resolution of the romance but lacking in detail otherwise. It’s an interesting concept and deserved a little more time in the limelight. Again, the plot moves very quickly here, and even the end felt somewhat rushed. The resolution wasn’t given time to truly simmer and instead a jump of eleven months suddenly sees the end we knew must be heading our way.
If you have read teen romance or contemporary novels before, you will probably find yourself, like me, predicting most of the plot. But the sweet and beautiful romance is so worth the journey that it’s almost nice not to have any nasty surprises along the way. Byrne’s writing is flowery and perhaps a little excessive for some, yet I only found that it spoke to me, and reminded me of the way I enjoy writing: lots of dramatic metaphors and romanticism.
If you are looking for something to ignite that wild passion in your soul, Afterlove is the novel for you.