After Us: Before & After # 2 by Amber Hart

A new to me author with a lovely installment, sure to be a favorite of those who have read Before You. 

Book Review:

The second in the series, After Us is the story of two secondary characters from Before You, and these two characters are reeling in the aftermath of what is left behind after that story ends.

Javier is a Cuban immigrant – his disconnection to much of the “American Dream” and his disillusionment with all that he has discovered is well-described and defined, and leaves readers with plenty of imagery and opportunities to see the world in a different way.  Like many immigrants, the comfort in his communicating in a hybrid Spanish/English mix is prevalent, and sadly wholly distracting from the very clever development of his character.

Melissa is still reeling from the loss of her best friend Faith, and all that surrounded her. Nothing is quite the same, and then along comes Javier. Cousin and best friend of Faith’s dead boyfriend, Diego.  These two had a connection that was severed with death and violence, and Melissa just isn’t sure she can deal with him again.

A fairly predictable love story between two broken people that had connected before they were unalterably changed, and relying on one another to heal, avenge, share and stagnate – for they both experience bits of every element as they deal with the other overwhelming issues from family, racism and gangs.  At times, it was difficult to determine if the author wanted to deal with any of the big issues, or just let them continue to populate and distract from the very real need for both characters to deal with their grief and learn to start healing.

Perhaps I’m not the actual “market’ for this title, but it was unfocused and I felt as if some situations were forced and rushed to move the plot along to the next ‘big’ thing. I couldn’t really connect to Javier, as much as his character showed great potential, the overuse of dialectic speech with the ‘spanglish’ was distracting, and felt repetitive ( my aunt, mi tia, she told me)  Pick one, lose the other. Strong writing will give readers the meaning. Melissa’s voice was a little stronger, but lacking in real emotional depth: she was removed from her emotions (understandably so) and her voice reflected her disconnect. A touch predictable, with a repeated reliance on some stereotypical imagery and nods to, without great resolution, to issues like racism and gang violence. We all know it is bad, but what are the characters willing to do to make the changes?

I did not read the first book, and didn’t find a great lack of information. Readers who want a fuller picture to get a sense of these characters and their issues before this story occurs would be well served by reading in order.

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