There Was Love AFTER US–Review and Giveaway

afterus-blogtour copy
Hi there! Today I’m sharing my review for AFTER US, a gritty YA romance newly-released by Amber Hart. I really enjoyed this one.

afterusAbout the book:
“Beautiful, lyrical writing and a dangerously suspenseful plot. . .an unforgettable novel that readers will love.” –Lucy Connors, author of The Lonesome Young

Sometimes secrets kill. Maybe slowly, maybe painfully. Maybe all at once.

Melissa smiles. She flirts. She jokes. But she never shows her scars. Eight months after tragedy ripped her from her closest friend, Melissa is broken. Inside her grows a tumor, fed by grief, rage, and the painful memory of a single forbidden kiss.

Javier has scars of his own: a bullet wound, and the memory of a cousin shot in the heart. Life in the States was supposed to be a new beginning, but a boy obsessed by vengeance has no time for the American dream. To honor his familia, Javier joins the gang who set up his cousin’s murder. The entrance price is blood. Death is the only escape.

These two broken souls could make each other whole again–or be shattered forever.
Our time will come. And we’ll be ready.

My Review:
This review contains SOME mild spoilers. This is the second book in a series, and I have not read the first. I was never at a loss in this story, however. And it’s a read I truly enjoyed.

Melissa is eighteen and a waitress at a beach resort in Florida. She wants to go to college, but her dream is on hold because Melissa’s life is essentially on hold. Five months ago she was diagnosed with cancer and though she has recovered from the surgery physically, the emotional scars remain. Four weeks remain before Melissa will have her post-op tests to determine if she needs chemotherapy. Melissa is adrift, and unable to discuss her fears with her close-knit family consisting of her mother and three older sisters. Melissa’s father abandoned their family when she was ten, and she knows she’s better off without his abuse, but she still feels slighted, rejected, even.

Life is funny like that. Life gives you things you never asked for and takes away things you’ve always dreamed of. I wonder where life gets the nerve.

These are feelings she’d discuss with her BFF Faith, but Faith had a mental breakdown after her boyfriend, Diego, was murdered by gangs and she has moved to Venezuela to build schools in rural villages. Despite many calls and messages, Faith rarely calls back. And, when she does, Melissa is too trapped in grief, anger and guilt she can’t confide.

One person to whom Melissa begins to open up is Javier. Javier is a Cuban-American from a family of refugees. He met Melissa through his cousin, Diego, and seeing her on the beach ignites his revenge. If she can get him in touch with Faith, then maybe he can find out more about the gang members who killed Diego.

I think about how he fits perfectly with me. How we’re made from this mold that’s so different but that we both, shapes of our own, fit into this space rightly.

Javier is attracted to Melissa, as well, and makes both desires clear when they find some privacy. One thing he neglects to reveal: his mama is highly against any of her children dating/marrying white people. Her prejudice is a palpable force in Javier’s large family, and Javier has witness his mother putting his elder brothers’ white girlfriends out of their home.

Love, I think is love to blame.
And I understand, for the first time, that life does offer more than violence and hunger and trying to survive. Sometimes, if you want it bad enough, life will even give you a chance to become something better.

While Javier is dealing with the impossible position of falling for a gringa (white girl) he is also getting “jumped in” to the gang that orchestrated Diego’s murder. It’s a delicate balance and he fails at avoiding discovery. Melissa had just begun to trust him, but she won’t be with a gangbanger. If nothing else, having cancer has taught her that life is exquisitely valuable, and shouldn’t be wasted in violence or revenge.

Her growing affection is shattered, and he has a lot of hard work to regain her trust. Their clashes over this lead Melissa to seek out Faith, and find the truth behind Javier’s pointless quest.

At first, I was unhappy with Javier and the whole bad-boy theme that seemed to permeate the book. Melissa has a lot on her plate, and even more to live for. I didn’t want her to get caught up with a gangbanging avenger, but (like Melissa), eventually, I could see Javier’s quest was more than idleness. Diego and he were raised together and close as brothers. Javier’s grief was extreme. In the end, when presented with the opportunity for the ultimate revenge, Javier’s actions were surprisingly tempered. I like to think he made the decisions he did because he had a new respect for life due to finding love with Melissa.

I mean, if a young man is going to stand up for his girlfriend against his mother’s most strenuous objections, then he can surely withstand the bloodlust for a guilty man’s life. Perhaps.

The end is quite good, right amount of twists, not too much on the sap. I was immediately in mind of Simone Elkeles’ PERFECT CHEMISTRY series while reading this book. It’s a good blend of growing affection, well-timed plot twists and honesty. The characters are solid, serious people facing real-life issues of life and death. While there is a clear romance, the language and activities are age-appropriate for teen readers, with no explicit sexual content.

I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley.

Interested? You can find AFTER US on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, and Kobo.


Click the Rafflecopter link below for you chance to win
one of three prize packs, including a Coach purse!
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Best of luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Amber Hart grew up in Orlando, Florida and Atlanta, Georgia. She now resides on the Florida coastline with family. When unable to find a book, she can be found writing, daydreaming, or with her toes in the sand. She’s the author of BEFORE YOU, AFTER US, UNTIL YOU FIND ME, and sequel to UNTIL YOU FIND ME (untitled as of yet). Represented by Beth Miller of Writers House.

You can reach out to Amber online on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.


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