Three years after the explosive success of “Fifty Shades of Grey” (2011), a seemingly similar bestseller conquered the book market in the blink of an eye. The After series written by Anna Todd was first published on the social storytelling platform Wattpad. It was initially intended as fanfiction about the world-famous boy band OneDirection, but for grown-ups. So what can we expect from this story? Another red torture chamber and a man with fifty different fu***ed up facets? Almost. Once again there is an innocent good girl, Tessa, who always follows the rules and is in a prudish relationship with her childhood friend Noah. And guess what: Tessa likes to stick her nose into every literary classic she can find in order to escape into these romantic novels. That already sounds quite familiar to our beloved Anastasia Steele. And then there is the bad boy Harry, who is going to rock Tessa’s world.
But before I tell you more about the story and what you can expect from this book let me tell you two things about myself: first of all I am (unfortunately) not a bookworm anymore and reading has practically disappeared from my hobby list. It took me quite a while until I actually took the advice of a friend and started reading my first fanfiction. Secondly, I am absolutely and undoubtedly not at all a fan of OneDirection. The “teenage-crying-drama-period” passed me by without leaving any trace of emotional connection to those boys in too tight jeans. But neither of these points matter whilst I was reading this fanfiction, because the series caught my interest immediately and I completely blocked out the fact that it was about those band boys.
Now let me get to the story. On her first day in college, the easily-influenced, naive Tessa encounters the slightly emotionally damaged Harry, who is the complete opposite of her. He is a punk, has tattoos, piercings and wears ripped clothes. But we all know the saying: opposites attract, and so the journey of Tessa and Harry begins. But be prepared: this journey gave me a massive headache, literally. I expected the road to be bumpy and difficult, but not that it would be so frustrating that I had to scream at my phone. On the one hand Tessa is so close-minded that she does not see what is going on in front of her eyes and therefore gets her heart broken over and over again. And then there are Harry’s psychological problems, mixed with too much alcohol, which lead to more confrontations and unnecessary catastrophes. And for me this is an almost identical copy of the Fifty Shades of Grey books, which I enjoyed reading as well, but sooner or later anyone would get tired of always reading the same story. For me these stories of weak girls and bad boys who have hot spicy sex are becoming really old, and after a time I definitely lost interest in following the repetitive proceedings.
Furthermore I just could not cope with my feelings towards the two main characters. There were times that I really wanted to hate Harry for the person he is and for what he does to Tessa. And then I also wanted to give Tessa a resounding slap in the face to wake her up from her pink dream world. But I simply couldn’t do either one of them. And that frustrated me even more, so that in the end I stopped reading in the middle of the second fanfiction publication.
If you are ready for a pale imitation of Fifty Shades of Grey, just with more teenage drama and for the added risk of losing your mind over those ridiculous repeating breakups, then this fanfiction and the published books are perfect for you.