AFTER by Anna Todd

September 19, 2019

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The After Series, Book 1

From the publisher:

Experience the internet’s most talked-about book, now a major motion picture, from Anna Todd, the writer Cosmopolitan called “the biggest literary phenomenon of her generation.” Now with new exclusive material!

There was the time before Tessa met Hardin, and then there’s everything AFTER Life will never be the same. #Hessa

Tessa is a good girl with a sweet, reliable boyfriend back home. She’s got direction, ambition, and a mother who’s intent on keeping her that way.

But she’s barely moved into her freshman dorm when she runs into Hardin. With his tousled brown hair, cocky British accent, and tattoos, Hardin is cute and different from what she’s used to.

But he’s also rude—to the point of cruelty, even. For all his attitude, Tessa should hate Hardin. And she does—until she finds herself alone with him in his room. Something about his dark mood grabs her, and when they kiss it ignites within her a passion she’s never known before.

He’ll call her beautiful, then insist he isn’t the one for her and disappear again and again. Despite the reckless way he treats her, Tessa is compelled to dig deeper and find the real Hardin beneath all his lies. He pushes her away again and again, yet every time she pushes back, he only pulls her in deeper.

Tessa already has the perfect boyfriend. So why is she trying so hard to overcome her own hurt pride and Hardin’s prejudice about nice girls like her?

Unless…could this be love?

Age Range: Adult

Where to start? Okay, I’ll just say it. I hated this book. The writing is awful. The story is incredibly repetitive.  And boring. These characters are in college, and Tessa is a virgin. Not just a virgin, she’s barely been kissed by her boyfriend of many, many years. They were saving themselves for marriage. An appealing goal to some, to be sure. But in this story, it’s just a challenge. Literally. Like these short, choppy sentences? Then this may be your book.

Despite the length of this book, the main character, Tessa, is not very well developed. She is a one-dimensional caricature of a naive 18-year-old who has never had a drink or seen anyone with a tattoo. Oh, stereotypes run hard here. Tattoos and/or piercings and/or Kool-Aid colored hair equals bad. Clean cut equals good, just like in real life. Because you can always judge a person based on their haircut, and everyone knows only good people wear preppy clothes. Like Robert Chambers, for example.

Hardin, a year or so older, is the male protagonist. He is slightly more developed, although it takes an inordinate amount of time (and pages) to get his story out. We know he has wildly shifting mood swings, and Tessa constantly refers to his probably bipolarity or other mental illnesses (see sentence above about stereotypes.) The way he is portrayed, and talked about, in my humble opinion, does grave disservice to those who suffer from mental illness. On the bright side, Tessa is an English major and a huge Jane Austen fan. If this book makes young people read Austen, then it may all be worth it.

This is a couple whose time is spent veering between sexual fumbling and screaming matches. It was painful to read, over and over and over and over and over again. It doesn’t help that proper grammar was tossed out the window, and a good editor, or any kind of editor, was nowhere in sight. I understand that “new adults” like to read about characters like themselves. The “new adult” designation means these are older teens who have a lot of sex, versus “young adult” who are younger teens who also have a lot of sex.

I picked up this book because I was curious. It was made into a movie that has a really bad 17% Rotten Tomato score, while the audience rating is 72%. It has over a 1000 reviews on Amazon and tops out at four stars. A friend told me this was originally published on Wattpad, a self-publishing platform, and was fan fiction based on Harry Styles of One Direction. I’m a few generations removed from that, so it didn’t mean much to me, and I did a little digging. I found this article at The Atlantic (spoilers galore) that tells the whole story of this publishing phenom. The After series seems to be at the cusp of a major shift in publishing, and frankly, it does not bode well for the future.

9/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

AFTER by Anna Todd. Gallery Books; Media Tie-In edition (March 12, 2019). ISBN 978-1982111007. 608p.



HOW TO BE FAMOUS by Caitlin Moran

July 3, 2018

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Caitlin Moran writes strong, feminist fiction with a unique protagonist and a wicked sense of humor. In this sequel to her debut, How to Build a Girl, Dolly Wilde returns. She is nineteen years old, lives on her own in a London flat and writes about new music for a popular British magazine.

Dolly is living her dream, until she falls in love with a young musician, John Kite, who suddenly hits it big in the 1994 music scene, and she feels left behind. John and Dolly are friends, but she doubts he would ever want more so she decides to start a monthly column on all the aspects, good and bad, of being famous.

Dolly is a talented writer, albeit somewhat immature, and she makes a bad decision to have a one-night stand with a famous comedian. Slut shaming soon follows and in light of the #metoo movement, makes this book both timely and important. Eventually, through her own inimitable personality, Dolly pushes through the pain, turns the shame into her own kind of fame, and wins the man of her dreams. While set more than twenty years ago, this Bildungsroman feels very topical and should appeal to strong women of any age.

©Library Journal, 2018.

7/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

HOW TO BE FAMOUS by Caitlin Moran. Harper (July 3, 2018). ISBN 978-0062433770.  352p.




CONFESS by Colleen Hoover

December 19, 2015
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Click to purchase

This is ostensibly an adult book, or the “New Adult” sub-genre that gets mashed in with the regular romances, but it really felt like a young adult book to me. The main characters are barely 21 (in fact one turns 21 half way through) and it starts when she is 15 years old.

Auburn has recently moved to Texas from Portland and is not very happy. She’s working as a hairstylist, but hates it and isn’t very good at it. She’s looking for a part time job when she sees a sign go up in an art gallery she passes on her way home from work.

Owen is the young artist in residence. People leave anonymous confessions in his mailbox, and when inspiration strikes, he creates paintings based on the confessions. He is talented enough to have a following and his own gallery, which he opens once a month.

Owen is desperate for help since his girlfriend/employee quit on him and the job right before his opening. So when Auburn inquires  he immediately hires her for the staggering sum of $100/hour. They have immediate chemistry, and book follows their budding romance, alternating their point of view each chapter so we get to hear what Autumn thinks and what Owen thinks.

It’s a great way to write a romance, if a bit repetitive at times, but Hoover really brings these characters to life. They each have secrets which slowly unfold to the reader, and eventually to each other. I can understand why this book is landing on some best romances of the year lists. It was a sweet yet compelling read. Rainbow Rowell and John Green fans will love it.

12/15 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

CONFESS by Colleen Hoover. Atria Books (March 10, 2015). ISBN 978-1476791456. 320p.


May 22, 2015

love & miss communicationEvie Rosen is addicted to the Internet. Her phone is always by her side and even in the most intimate of settings – well, the most intimate of settings Evie’s seeing these days, i.e. friends’ weddings and a few blind dates that go nowhere – she never misses a tweet or status update. It’s possible that her need to stay connected is affecting her friendships and relationships, or lack thereof… like the time she was called out for Googling one of those blind dates.

But then Evie is fired for spending too much of her work time on personal emails. Reeling over her new unemployment situation, Evie binges on a Facebook stalking session and discovers that her allergic-to-marriage ex has just tied the knot. The results of that revelation are embarrassing, to say the least, and prompt Evie to finally admit that she has a real problem. And so she decides to give it all up. But going Internet free isn’t necessarily easy, especially in a day and age when everyone is expected to take part in the social media circus. And for a girl who’s single and unemployed, it means getting a little creative about dating and job hunting.

Elyssa Friedland’s debut is a fun and eye-opening look at today’s always connected, always updating online frenzy. But it’s more than just a girl experiencing the inconveniences of internet-free living. Love and Miss Communication is a story about the importance of family, friends, and real connections rather than friend requests.

05/15 Becky LeJeune

LOVE AND MISS COMMUNICATION by Elyssa Friedland. William Morrow Paperbacks (May 12, 2015). ISBN: 978-0062379849. 400p.