Seventeen-year-old Raychel is sleeping with two boys: her overachieving best friend Matt…and his slacker brother, Andrew. Raychel sneaks into Matt’s bed after nightmares, but nothing ever happens. He doesn’t even seem to realize she’s a girl, except when he decides she needs rescuing. But Raychel doesn't want to be his girl anyway. She just needs his support as she deals with the classmate who assaulted her, the constant threat of her family’s eviction, and the dream of college slipping quickly out of reach. Matt tries to help, but he doesn’t really get it… and he’d never understand why she’s fallen into a secret relationship with his brother. The friendships are a precarious balance, and when tragedy strikes, everything falls apart. Raychel has to decide which pieces she can pick up – and which ones are worth putting back together.
Kate Hart's debut novel, AFTER THE FALL, was published in 2017 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Her short stories and essays have been included in NEVER WHISTLE AT NIGHT (PRH 2023), DAVY JUNE'S LEGENDARY FRY BREAD DRIVE-IN (Heartdrum 2025), OUT NOW (Inkyard 2020), BODY TALK (Algonquin 2020), TOIL AND TROUBLE (Harlequin Teen 2018) ,and HOPE NATION (Philomel 2018).
Born in Oklahoma and raised in Arkansas, Kate is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation with Choctaw heritage and a member of the Tulsa chapter of Matriarch. She lives with her family on a mountainside outside of Fayetteville, where she co-owns Natural State Treehouses and sells woodworking and fiber arts at Kate Hart Studio. Her literary work is represented by Alexandra Levick at Writers House.
After the Fall was a book I added immediately after reading the synopsis. How could I not? A contemporary YA about relationships and high school rumours and slut-shaming that has received comparisons to Courtney Summers? Sounds like it's made for me.
But the truth is that this book took on more than it could handle. Hart brings in many heavy topics- sexual consent, slut-shaming, gender double standards, race relations, to name but a few - and doesn't really do much with any of them. After the Fall drowned in its own unsuccessful messages, asking a lot of important questions but offering no satisfying conclusions to them. Whilst also trying to be a love story and a meditation on grief and loss.
The story moves between the perspectives of Raychel and her friend, Matt. Raychel and Matt have been platonically sleeping together for some time, but it seems that Matt wants more from their relationship. However, Raychel finds herself drawn instead to his brother, Andrew, who she begins a secret sexual relationship with. Alongside this, Raychel is also trying to deal with the guy who assaulted her at a party, and rumours about her at school.
I wasn't particularly interested in any of the characters from the start. The dialogue felt forced and weird... kind of like an adult's idea of teenspeak. Matt seemed whiny, and I wasn't even sure why we needed his perspective.
And about those perspectives - After the Fall has no chapters. The book just moves back and forth between Raychel and Matt's similar narrative voices, sometimes with only a few paragraphs given to their POV. It was messy, confusing, and I felt like I never got attached to either of them because of it, making what should have been an important read just boring.
The problem with reviewing this book is - what I feel to be - the huge disparity between what the author intended and what the author achieved. When it comes to intentions, I think I've got a pretty good idea what they are: tackle issues of consent, gender and race. Which sounds great. But I think if you forget about intentions and look at this book as is, you're left with something completely different.
What you're left with is something akin to many New Adult romances. A heroine who is wanted by every male in the book, a love triangle that uses sexual assault as a vehicle for romantic angst (seriously, you wouldn't believe how many rape survivors are used as romance heroines, ick), and a big dramatic tragedy that overshadows any interesting questions previously raised and left unaddressed.
After the Fall just didn't deliver for me. Despite what may have been intended, it is not so much a book about sexual assault and consent as it is a book about romance and grief that uses said sexual assault to make the love angst even more dramatic. Disappointing.
9/23/15 Just a heads up that this book is now a 2017 release. 1/22/16 Got a pub date: January 24, 2017! 3/21/16 Updated the book's description. :) 5/17/16 Cover! 8/2/16 Up for grabs on NetGalley (& Edelweiss, I think) 1/22/17 Two days until release! Goodreads giveaway happening here in the meantime: https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/sh...
1/24/17: It's HERE! To celebrate, a group of writers will be matching your donations to RAINN today, up to $4000! Go to fundraise.rainn.org/afterthefall to help, or signal boost with the hashtag #afterthefall (and add the titles of your favorite feminist reads)!
It's been about 20 hours since I finished this book. I've spent the past 20 hours contemplating, thinking about, and replaying this book in my head since then. Eyes, puffy; mood, despondent; fragility, very high right now.
After the Fall is an indescribably and immensely powerful book. If there is one book you read in 2017 it should be this one. This book doesn't just touch upon tough subjects, it surrounds us with these issues and makes us face them even when we wish to stay ignorant and entertained by what we read. But Kate Hart knows better, she confronts us with the problems in such a way that it really settles within us, it makes us squirm and think about our own actions and choices and the people in our lives.
In After the Fall, Raychel has a lot on her plate. An assault from a classmate, the threat of eviction, and her dwindling changes of escaping her hometown for college. Not to mention her two very different relationships with brothers. Perfect Matthew Richardson, her best friend since youth, and his slacker brother Andrew, her secret love interest.
Raychel's life is messy and difficult and her assault weighs on her mind and health. When people in school spread rumors very loosely based on what they thought was true, Kate Hart does a great job speaking to the ideas of reputation and rumors. The inequality and double-standard between men and women. The definition of assault and how the victim blames herself and tries to rationalize while the perpetrator thinks he did nothing wrong. Everything was tastefully done, and Kate captures Raychel's emotions and thoughts perfectly.
Raychel's relationships are another huge part of this book. Most of her friend group is a year older than she and Matthew are, so they are all off at college while she and Matthew finish their final year of high school. Kate explores the meaning of friendship and Raychel's complex relationships with her friends, Matthew, Andrew, Mr. and Mrs. Richardson, and Raychel's mother. The romance in this book was cute and sweet and really resonated within. Raychel found someone who wouldn't judge her and tried to understand and if all else failed he was just always there to comfort her. Raychel's friendship with Matthew really sucked me in and held my attention throughout.
This book has a huge twist, and I urge you not to spoil yourself. It's gut-wrenching and gives this book a poignant tone.
Kate Hart is an amazing writer. She manages to find the perfect words to describe literally everything that Raychel and Matthew feel. She makes us feel anguish and regret, sadness and longing, happiness and joy. She seamlessly weaves in such powerful elements and themes in a way that don't seem preachy but rather so natural and effortless. Nothing felt forced, but Kate Hart makes you understand and learn.
Although I really loved this book, the last third of the book lagged for me. An overwhelming sadness overtook me, so you've been warned. I might've sobbed for a good twenty minutes after finishing this book. If you guessed I'm crying as I write this review you'd be correct. Because this book is just so emotional and well done.
Kate Hart basically smashed my heart into a million pieces with the ending of the book. She slowly starts to mend it by the last page. The end is by no means perfect which I love.
I loved basically everything about After the Fall. I urge you to read this book. It might not be 100% entertaining and happy at times, but it just so powerful. I think you'll appreciate it.
You know those books where you read the first half and then you cry for ten minutes, and then you have to take a break until the next day? But then the next day you decide you can't keep reading first thing in the morning because you're still sad so you take yourself for a new haircut, new shoes, and a pedicure? THEN when your emotions are tricked back into submission, you feel like you're safe to read the second half of the book? THIS BOOK.
I'm just still...like....bone-deep sad. This is a really heart-wrenching book in many ways. First and foremost in regards to Raychel's assault and her reactions to it and confusion over it and I just want to wrap her in a hug and make her hot cocoa and hang out with her and Asha and tell her things are shit but also that things will be ok. *deep breath* The other heart-wrenching things are spoilers but basically, this book will make you cry. Sad crying, angry crying, frustrated crying. I loved Raychel's voice and Hart's writing and *heart-clutching motion*
The best thing this book does is clearly make the distinction between "nice guys" and good guys and I think that's an important lesson for every woman, no matter their age.
I wanna rant about some stuff but it's all spoilers and even with the "hide spoilers" option I'd feel terrible posting them where they could be accidentally found.
Thanks so much to FSG (FSG, I love you, look at you climbing my list of favorite imprints, you go girl!) and NetGalley for the e-arc!
This book made me so mad and I wish I could tell you all the reasons why. But I can't because SPOILERS. But I will tell you some of the reasons.
Reason A-- Raychel. As soon as I saw that this Rachel spelled her name with a "Y" I knew she was going to be annoying. And I was right. She was all up in her own head-- trying to make the reader think she "didn't want to stand out", but she was constantly playing the victim and waiting for Matt or Andrew to come save her.
There is a sexual assault part to this book, and I'm certainly not referring to that when I say she wanted to be saved. It was all these other dumb things-- like constantly hurting her ankle and getting too drunk to walk and needing them to carry her and such that IRKed me.
Reason B-- Matt. Oh my god could this boy get any more pathetic? There was nothing I liked about him. Not only was he a uptight goody-goody, but there was a storyline where he was like trying to be better about being respectful to women-- but then he didn't change anything in the end, so I don't really know what the point of all of it was except to make me think he was a bigger DOUCHE than I already thought he was.
Reason C-- UUGHHHHGHGHWKHWOIHFNJNSK!!! The spoilery thing I can't tell you about. I found it so unnecessary and all it did for me was take the only part of the book I liked and set it on fire.
So I guess this looks like I didn't like the book. See, that's where my feelings get COMPLICATED because I kind of did like this book. I liked it enough to not want to stop reading it. I liked it enough to THINK about it long after I stopped reading it. I know for sure this is a book that won't soon leave my mind because UGHHHH the spoilery things that happen are so infuriating!!!
I wasn't super impressed by the writing (like I said the characters talk unnecessarily in their own heads a lot & say things like "nothing much happened on Monday" and "StuCo"), but there was something about the story and the drama that hooked me. I also enjoyed some of the tough conversations that the characters had about consent, treating people with respect, and it being okay to be sex positive but also okay to say no when you want to.
The last 1/3 of the book felt like a very different book. There's an event that takes place and things change so drastically that I'm not sure I wanted so much story after it took place. I did like the ending though because if it would've turned out differently I would have SCREAMED. But I didn't scream, I was calm, and all was well.
I'm going to go ahead and recommend this because I do think it's worth reading. It's not boring, and I can see where some people might like the big emotional "twist".
OVERALL: A book I liked despite being so ANGERED that I almost threw a Kindle. It's the story of 2 really annoying friends and a kick-ass brother-- and drama happens and things get COMPLICATED and SAD and UGLY. I think it's worth trying if you like Contemporary.
A copy of After the Fall was provided in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect the contents of my review in any way.
Wow. This book was very unexpected. A good unexpected, but unexpected all the same. Especially the part where I CRIED FOR 100 STRAIGHT PAGES. But we'll get there in a second. Also, this book deals with some hard topics, and I want to talk about them so trigger warning for rape/sexual assault.
First of all, the summary is pretty dang misleading. I don't like the "she's sleeping with two boys" because really, Raychel doesn't sleep with either Matt or Andrew in either sense on a regular basis. She is, however, a girl who is comfortable with her body and her sexuality and owns it, and I so appreciate that. Raychel is smart and works hard, both in school and at work (which she has to do first to save up for college and then to help her mom with the bills), but she also makes mistakes, and again: she owns them. To verge on cliche, she is refreshingly honest, and I love her voice. I love that she lets people know when they've done something disappointing--like Andrew snarking about the no-high-school-boys rule she broke before the book started or Matt being his asshole self. But whenever she does something disappointing to someone else--being snobby about her mom's boyfriend--she sucks it up and attempts to right the sotuation. Basically, I love Raychel. She's strong in sometimes quiet ways.
Matt, on the other hand, is an asshole, and it took me a while to understand why he is a narrator (and when I realized why, I was devastated, but we'll get to that in a bit). Matt's a good guy. He's friendly. He does a lot of extra-curriculars. He works hard for the school. But... he's supposed to be Raychel's best friend, and I never truly felt their connection. He totally white knights her unnecessarily and has this crush that made me uncomfortable given some of their interactions (taking pictures of her while rock climbing, even when he can see her underwear, allowing her to sleep in his bed without telling her his feelings, etc). And Matt is completely oblivious to both his own privilege and Raychel's more serious hardships. He gets the obvious things: Raychel's ankle injury, Raychel being drunk, etc, but he doesn't truly understand why she needs a job so badly, why she wants to get away from Carson. Matt is completely blind to these things, and it's such a contrast to Andrew who is outwardly the screwed up black sheep with bad grades and an affinity for getting grounded and a liking for weed, but who is inwardly sensitive and perceptive.
After the Fall is undoubtedly feminist. It explores the good guy character and shows how even "good guys" can be assholes (see: Matt) and how "good guys" are sometimes not good at all because they don't understand that no means no and what consent mean and what constitutes as rape and/or sexual assault. After the Fall also exhibits a wide variety of relationships between female characters, which is freaking AWESOME. Like Raychel has good relationships with both her mom and Mrs. R (Matt and Andrew's mom), although they're not without complication or complexity. There are the good friends--Asha and Keri--and the bitchy not-really-friends-but-we're-part-of-the-same-group frenemy. These relations evolve throughout the book in real, believable ways, sometimes for good, sometimes for bad. I like that there was a contrast with two mother figures, and that, while Raychel's mom works a lot, she does care about and work hard to parent Raychel. She's present even though she's a working parent with her own life. I like that. And when Keri witnesses an attempted assault on an intoxicated Raychel, SHE SAYS SOMETHING. She gets help immediately, but then she also provides support after the fact. She shuts gossip down with the truth, and provides Raychel with a safe place after both the assault and the Big Tragedy. And there's a GLORIOUS scene between Raychel and Mrs. R that flat out discusses assault and rape, and how just because a girl doesn't say no doesn't meanshe said yes, and that rape doesn't always mean intercourse. It was so hard to read that scene, but DAMN it was also good to see it in black and white, and not only do I want to shove his book in the hands of every girl ever, this book NEEDS to be in boys' hands so that they can FUCKING LEARN THIS SHIT. Ahem.
I think this book did a great job of tackling so much other than just the assault. Raychel's absent dad who attempts to pay child support but can't afford it. Raychel's mom working overtime and not being able to cover bills. The stresses that poverty, working parents, and working teens put on those teens. Trying to plan for college but not knowing where the money will come from. Grief. Oh, so much grief. Seriously, the last hundred pages, I SOBBED. Therapy. Survivor's guilt. There's this one line that I loved, even though it broke my heart: "I used to be part of the family. Past tense. I've been disowned. There's some stupid saying like 'It's the family you choose that matters,' but what do you do when they un-choose you?" (ARC, page 256) BRILLIANT. Heartbreaking, but brilliant and also a REALLY good question.
One very small detail I love about After the Fall is that Kate crates a natural and realistic environment with every day details. Several mentions of tampons--Raychel keeping them in Matt's car, selling them to embarrassed preteens at the convenience store, using one after sex--and condoms--again, keeping one in the car and selling them to guys at the store, using one during sex. Mentioning how Asha is struggling in college (and that even a not-as-prestigious state college still being tougher than high school: TRUE TRUE TRUE) and has to cancel plans to study. Things like that are REAL but often aren't "glamorous" or even just important enough to include in fiction. I'm so grateful Kate did.
I can't quite give After the Fall five stars because it's still devastating, and I really wanted it to have more of a traditional happy ending (although A++ for Raychel living her life and doing it well for herself as well as the people she loves/loved). There are some really great sweetly swoony parts, and it hurt so bad when The Thing I Don't Want To Talk About Because Spoilers And Also It Will Make Me Cry Again happens, but I will say it occurs organically, is handled appropriately, and leads to significant character development for both Matt and Raychel that may not have happened otherwise. It's just not what I would prefer because I like my HEAs to be a tidbit more happy.
After the Fall is hugely important, and I do highly recommend readers of all genders give it a try. I think Kate is an enormously talented writer who can balance complex character development on both individual and relationship levels with a full, realistic setting and big plot points that help shape the characters in a believable if dramatic manner. Definitely get this one on your TBR!
It's very rare for me to be blindsided by the emotional range and depth of a book. But After the Fall did just that. After reading the synopsis, I expected a love triangle and I got that. I also got so much more.
Raychel is poor. She wants to get out of the town she's grown up in, but everything that could go wrong seems to do so. Matt is the opposite. He leads a charmed life and is almost guaranteed to be heading to Duke next year. They've been best friends forever. Matt, however, wants more. He just doesn't know how to say it. Then there's his younger brother, Andrew. He's the opposite of Matt in almost every way. Not so serious, a bit of a slacker. Together, the three of them comprise a sort of Musketeers gang.
Initially, we see Raychel dealing with the after effects of a hookup gone wrong. She's questioning herself and what had happened. No one else knows and her struggle carries over into her friendships. Matt knows something is wrong, but doesn't know how to get it out of her. As things begin to fall apart further, Raychel finds solace in an unlikely source—Andrew.
After the Fall is told from two points of view: Raychel and Matt. I felt this was absolutely crucial to the story considering each character's differing feelings. What one thinks the other doesn't realize. I completely understood her frustration with Matt, but once his perspective came into play, it helped paint him into a better light. Somewhat. I did have issues with Matt as a character. He was very opinionated and judgmental. Times when he thought he was being helpful tended to make situations worse. And I'm not saying Raychel was perfect. Not even close. But her station in life was the polar opposite of his, and he had a hard time seeing that. Andrew was absolutely my favorite character. He had a goofy charm and charisma. Where Matt tried to be serious and pressure Raychel into making choices that wouldn't work for her, Andrew just listened and offered comfort. He let her be her.
This story is invaluable. It broaches many subjects, and consent is probably the most important. I felt feminist vibes nearly every time Raychel spoke. It's important for young women to read so they don't take the blame for something that was someone else's fault. But beware. This is by no means an easy read. The last half is emotionally gripping. My heart was in a vise. But it's REAL. That's what I appreciated most. Because life isn't always like the movies.
This was... wow. This was poignant. Raw. Shocking. Incredible. Profound. The characters were wonderfully flawed, making me angry and confused, but also bursting at the seams with happiness and sorrow. Rachel and Matt have to deal with a heart-shattering loss (which I never in a MILLION years saw coming and basically blacked out from because it was so painful), and what struck me the most about this story was how realistic the aftermath was. It was slow and painful, with our main characters both trying to come to terms with their new life and the path that was forcibly chosen for them. They have to weave through heartbreak and betrayal, forgiveness and acceptance. It was absolutely beautiful, and I'll be recommending this to EVERYONE.
(Also, that moment when you finish the book and realize how truly cruel the designer had to be for that cover. And also to whoever created the title. YOU WOUND ME.)
I received an ARC of this book from a Goodreads giveaway.
This was my first non-reread-read of 2017, and I went into it with a fairly blank head because, well, no one I follow has reviewed this yet. At least not that I've seen. This book is a debut, but I knew that a tagline surrounding this book was, essentially, that this book is about "rumors, reputations, and consent" so naturally I was very intrigued. I don't typically read contemporary unless it has a central theme. Contemporary novels about person X falling in love with person Y is just not my style and doesn't interest me, so when I heard that this book was about consent and probably, therefore, rape culture, I was intrigued.
I think that is where one of my main problems with this book lies. This book wasn't about consent. This book tried to be too much. It tried to be a romance and a tragedy and a commentary on sexual assault and gender roles. I think that the first and second half of this book would have made good books had they been separated and expanded, but they were chopped short and pushed together.
It was just too muchfor one book. So much so that I felt that the sexual assault of our main character felt like a stepping stone and a plot point that was only there to create drama between the characters until we got to the "real" climax of the story.
That made me endlessly uncomfortable. And, yes, the topic is uncomfortable, but the assault was just pushed under the rug. Yes, this happens in real life, but for the character that is basically the moral support of our main character to tell her to her face that she would never win a case in court so it's best ignored infuriated me. While this definitely is the case for many people, to state this as normal or just a "part of life" was absolutely infuriating. (I know that I've said infuriated twice now, but I was really angry about it.)
I will say that I think there is one very important scene in the first part of the book after the main character is assaulted where we see her reaction and it explains her thought processes and lack thereof. I want to state clearly that I think this part was incredibly well done and important. But after a few short scenes of the author basically saying "Look, she's grieving and upset and . . ." the main character falls in love and from then on it's like it never happened, which almost made me angrier. It's mentioned once or twice in passing but anything specific.
I'm going to get off that soap box now and mention a few other things about this story.
The good: - The second half of the story has a very positive, yet brief, portrayal of character(s) going to therapy. Also, that therapy doesn't immediately fix your problems and that sometimes the first person you go to isn't going to be the best person to help you get better. - There are a lot of really funny bits and important quotes in the first third of the book about supporting feminism. Great job. - Our main character doesn't come from money. She's the child of a single mom, and they struggle and the reader sees that, and it never felt shoved in my face that she was poor. - Different family dynamics are displayed really well I thought. There are good and bad relationships with parents displayed. Also, something that I really related to that I was really happy to see in this book was that our main character loves her mom, yes, but her "second mom" and the one she shares more and talks more with is actually her best friend's mom. It's important for teens and young adults to have close relationships with adults, and (for the first half of this book) this is displayed really well.
The bad: (part 2) - There are no chapters, and so the pacing was quite a bit off. Maybe this is something that is specific to the ARC? If not, the pacing was still a bit off. - The dual POVs felt completely unnecessary. There would be a POV switch for a paragraph--I kid you not--before it switched back to who was thinking or speaking before. I couldn't tell if the author wanted to us this as a way to create a quicker pace within certain scenes or just didn't want to write dialogue because honestly it felt like both. - The writing was definitely the typical "adult writing teenagers" style. The specific, and endlessly annoying, aspect that this author used was that the characters constantly referred to the student council as "StuCo" in both their internal dialogue and actual dialogue. It made me want to punch them in the face. - It has the slightly annoying trope of the main character being absolutely obsessed with that one classic that mirrors their life so perfectly. This time: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. - - All of these characters have alcohol-control issues that need to be worked out, but it's just passed off as "no big deal" even by the parents. It's ridiculous.
RTC (probably in a day or two): I have no idea where I stand on this book, which is incredibly rare for me. There are elements that I despised and a few that I enjoyed. And then there are all the ones in the middle that I don't know how I feel about just yet.
I was surprised by how much this debut young adult novel affected me. I loved the complicated relationship between a young woman from a poor, single parent family and two brothers from a well-adjusted, more affluent family in a familiar Ozark setting. All the characters were complex and flawed, and the depiction of a hard-partying crowd of high school kids felt very true. It brought up important issues of consent in romantic relationships, and the ending felt like a sucker punch in the gut, which was apparently just what I needed this month. While not a perfect novel—the transition between different points of view didn’t always work—it was an enjoyable read.
After the Fall is just not for me. I read about 50 pages and then skipped through the rest. The characters, Raychel and Matt (and Andrew), are quite whiny and annoying. They always are getting into arguements and thinking they are always right. Raychel's secret isn't that much of a secret. It's the poor girl is best friends with a rich boy and she falls in love with rich boy's brother. They date in secret but then tragedy and everyone finds out! That plot twist was pretty good and unexpected. It was also 3/4ths of the way through the book. And the ending was okay. And I do like the spelling of Raychel's name! ;)
I don't want to spoil any of the story elements, but I will say that I love how raw and real these characters were--all of them. Hart doesn't coddle her readers or force neat bows on situations that are rarely, if ever, neat-bow-able. Because of that the story felt incredibly honest, and painful, and real.
It's one that will stay with you. Absolutely a must-read of 2017.
Major spoilers in this review, because it’s more of an autopsy. I think After the Fall was dead on arrival for me.
The cover copy promises a kind of love triangle in which Raychel is sleeping with 2 brothers, Matt and Andrew. Now, I know that authors usually don’t write the cover copy, so I won’t blame Kate Hart for this. But I feel misled. Raychel is sleeping with Matt in the sense that sometimes they share a bed. She does have sex with Andrew, like once. So the book positions itself to be this dramatic love triangle, but it’s more like a mopefest in which Raychel is sad because she’s not happy, Matt is sad because he’s not boning Raychel the way he wants to, and Andrew is … actually, Andrew’s deal is less scrutable because we don’t get his perspective very often and he really only seems to exist as a foil to Matt and an alternative partner for Raychel.
If you can’t tell, I’m salty about a lot of stuff in this book, mostly because it set me up for such high hopes. And I’m not just talking about the cover copy.
Matt and Raychel are kind of best friends. From Matt’s perspective, he’s pretty sure on that. When we see Raychel’s perspective, I think she sees herself more like family. She likes both Matt and his brother Andrew (platonically), and in typical high school fashion, she’s oblivious to Matt’s romantic/sexual attraction to her. Raychel has sworn off high school guys; she’s sophisticated and only dates college guys. She and Matt also come from very different backgrounds: her mom is single and working class; his parents are university-educated, one a legal professor and the other a practising doctor. So while Raychel is worried about scrimping enough money to go to college out of state, Matt is more concerned about student council activities to pad his already impressive resumé. Andrew, we are told, is a stoner one grade junior who likes to be less responsible than Matt. As I previously mentioned, the book iterates through the 3 characters’ first person narration, but we mostly switch between Raychel and Matt and hear less often from Andrew.
Matt is overprotective of Raychel and somewhat overbearing. He’s always trying to tell her to buck up and look on the bright side as her mother’s money problems mount. Hart really wants us to understand that he’s a nice guy who’s just very wrapped up in his white, male, upper–middle class privilege. Raychel, on the other hand, who is also white but neither male nor upper–middle class, gets annoyed by Matt on an almost daily basis yet also seems happy to hang out with him and seek comfort from him.
To Hart’s credit—and this is probably why I’m not giving the book 1 star—I do see both points of view. I know what it’s like to watch your friend struggle with life and feel like you should be in a position to help them yet really have nothing to offer except encouragement. I also know what it’s like to feel like a friend isn’t understanding your situation because they don’t share the experience you’re living through. So I hope I’m not coming down inordinately on either of our protagonists, because I think they are equally terrible people.
The other respect in which After the Fall almost but doesn’t quite get it right would be with regards to its handling of rape. In two instances, a classmate named Carson forces Raychel to give him a blowjob. Raychel eventually tells a few people, most notably Matt’s lawyer mother, who lectures her on the nature of consent/assault, reassuring Raychel that this is not her fault, while also admitting Carson will never face ramifications in court if Raychel reported it. I applaud Hart for the way she sets up this subplot. I think Carson’s perspective—his complete obliviousness that he did anything wrong—is unfortunately all too realistic. Similarly, the way Raychel pulls away from people, even from Matt and Andrew, makes a lot of sense too. That’s the “almost” for me. The “doesn’t quite” would be the resolution, the way Raychel strikes back with a childish prank whose consequences are that Carson will have to take a women’s studies course in college next year, oh no!
There are also some conversations in English class about The Handmaid’s Tale and bodily autonomy that are meant to parallel what Raychel’s dealing with and highlight Matt’s masculine cluelessness. But I was uncomfortable, as a trans woman, with the way Hart handles these conversations. They feel boiled down in a gender essentialist way (and to be fair, the source material has similar issues). In the book’s rush to point out the power imbalance between cis men and cis women in our society, it either deliberately ignores or just forgets trans and non-binary folx, further pushing us to the margins in these important conversations.
This is something I’m encountering more and more in YA literature that tries to bring up sensitive topics through a feminist lens. The intent is there, and it is good. But the execution can over-simplify issues that ultimately take years for people to understand. I don’t know what the solution is; I’m not expecting a YA novel to somehow condense bell hooks and Judith Butler and all sorts of feminist theory into a single story that a teenage reader can easily digest. But I would like to see feminist YA fiction that acknowledges the diversity and intersectionality of women’s struggles, that doesn’t forget about other marginalized genders. (The book does feature two racialized women as side characters, one of whom we learn is in love with a Black man despite her Indian parents’ disapproval … again, this is another area in which After the Fall appears to be trying but never engages deeply enough with the issue to move beyond tokenism.)
And then there’s the twist.
I admit, I didn’t expect the eponymous fall to be, you know, a literal fall. So points to Hart for the surprise; you got me. I also think that the reactions of the various characters to Andrew’s death make a lot of sense—in particular, the way Matt’s mother ostracizes Raychel and also has trouble processing her grief in relation to Matt’s survival. Even Matt’s constant self-punishment and guilt is believable. I don’t think I would be able to forgive myself if I were even tangentially responsible for such an accident.
I also appreciate that Hart doesn’t have Raychel and Matt get together in the end. There is no happily ever after here, just ever after—they are the ones who survived, so they have to keep going. It is bleak and not super hopeful, I know, but it is the most appropriate ending for the kind of book After the Fall is.
Where the ending loses me is that it doesn’t actually result in change from any of the characters. Raychel continues to drink, party, and otherwise numb the pain of her problems. Matt continues to obsess over college admissions. No one really wants to talk about their feelings (although at least they’re all going to therapy now). Like I said, I didn’t expect or particularly want a happy ending, but I wanted more closure than I got here.
Finally, I just don’t appreciate that Andrew’s entire character was essentially one big plot device. As I mentioned near the beginning of the review, we don’t learn as much about him as Raychel and Matt. He exists to be someone Raychel can get close to in a way that Matt especially disapproves of. He’s a nice guy despite being irresponsible, we learn. And then Hart kills him off to make a point about grief and loneliness and privilege. RIP Andrew, you did not deserve your fate.
There is a good book somewhere inside this messy one. Although the frequent perspective changes sometimes threw me, overall I appreciated Hart’s narrative style. But there is just too much going on, too many issues dancing for my attention, too many serious ideas (and even characters) slipping from foreground into background such that they almost feel like a plot device. (I haven’t even mentioned the child abuse on the part of Raychel’s mom that’s entirely sidelined with a single conversation.) After the Fall wants to make us feel deeply for what these teenagers are going through. I felt. But I didn’t grow.
Originally posted on Kara.Reviews, where you can easily browse all my reviews and subscribe to my newsletter.
After the Fall was one of my most anticipated reads for 2017. I love books that deal with real issues, even if they are difficult to get through, and this book definitely was difficult to get through at times, because it was written with such real emotions. It was raw and gripping, and made me cry on more than one occasion.
After the Fall is a great idea of how powerful a young adult contemporary can be, especially when pushing you to face real issues that will stick with you for a long, long time.
Raychel is seventeen, and spends the majority of time with her best friend Matt. While Matt is in love with her, Raychel is oblivious to it. In fact, she only notices Matt's younger brother, Andrew. Together, the three of them do plenty of things together - hiking, going to parties, you name in. Since Asha and the rest of their friends have gone off to college, the three of them like to stick together, even through life's harder times.
Raychel is known as a "slut" in high school, especially since one night in a truck with one of the popular guys, which led to him talking. Even though Raychel wasn't okay with what happened, she went along with it.
Through all this, she is also dealing with the fact that she and her mother are low on money, and Raychel just lost her job, making it difficult for them to afford rent. So Raychel gives her mother some of the money she had saved up for college, assigning her a fate of being stuck in the area until at least the next year, when she can afford community college. The next year, Matt will leave and go to college. And the year after that, Andrew would go.
And Raychel is falling in love with Andrew. The two of them have been spending more and more time together, stealing kisses when they get chances, and having conversations that make their relationship feel like home.
But they haven't told Matt. They haven't told anyone.
And tragedy strikes before they get the chance.
This book broke my heart into about a thousand pieces. I guess I really wasn't expecting what I got when I picked this one up, despite having read the synopsis a bunch of times. I mean, I knew it wasn't going to be a lighthearted contemporary or anything, but I guess I didn't realize that it was going to make me so sad. But it did. I mean, don't get me wrong - this book was amazing. Incredible.
After the Fall really tried to deal with a lot of different topics. It dealt with consent, it dealt with first love, it dealt with the whole boy-loves-girl-but-girl-doesn't-feel-the-same-way idea, it dealt with friends who slowly grow apart, and it dealt with death and tragedy. Because of that, I felt like this book was an emotional mess, and it left me an emotional mess, too. But in a good way, if that makes sense?
Okay, Raychel had a really difficult life. And as the book goes on, life seems to get more and more difficult for her. I mean, when things finally start looking up (the relationship that develops with Matt's younger brother Andrew), everything just dissolves right in front of her, and then there's the fallout of that event, which makes everything even harder for her.
The whole secret relationship and tragedy aspect of this book is enough to break your heart and give you all kinds of emotions to deal with, but then you have to look at the part of the book that deals with consent. When Raychel is at a party with Andrew and Matt, the same guy who tried to force himself on Raychel before decides to do it again, even though she was very clear that she wasn't interested. That was really rough spot to read, and it could really spur a discussion on alcohol abuse and consent (and it should).
The story was told in alternating viewpoints of both Raychel and Matt, and in two sections: "Before the Fall" and "After the Fall." I'm not going into a lot of detail about these two sections and what they mean, because I refuse to spoil this book (I hadn't read any reviews or spoilers prior to starting this, which was probably why I was so shocked and sent for a loop when I read it). It made all the difference, because you find out on your own what the tragedy is, and what exactly happens afterward, without even knowing it's coming. It shocked the hell out of me. And then made me cry. And go to sleep for the night because I was too sad to finish the book until morning.
I did have trouble really getting inside the heads of the characters. While I really liked Andrew, I just felt like something was missing when it came to Matt. I can't put my finger on exactly what, but things just seemed one sided with him - like his thoughts and feelings were the only things that mattered. I think it just seemed like we got to know Raychel so much more than we got to know Matt...we knew about every aspect of her life, but so much was left out of Matt's story.
If you want to read an emotionally charged YA contemporary, please don't miss this one. It has so many important messages in it that it's worth a read, even if the genre isn't your usual.
Note: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you so much!
After the Fall is an utter disappointment. It features bland characters, a truly ridiculous twist, and doesn't offer anything constructive or worthwhile with the highlighted topics.
After the Fall ultimately fails because of the sheer amount of work it takes on. Rape, consent, gender double standards, and slut shaming are featured heavily within the book on top of developing a romance and having the characters deal with loss. All of these topics are touched upon briefly or spoken about directly, but ultimately offer no real solutions or conclusions. I enjoyed the focus on The Handmaid's Tale throughout the novel, but only because it's one of my favorite novels. Like I mentioned previously, the references also offer no solutions making it stick out like a sore thumb.
From the beginning of the novel to the end, I never felt a connection to any of the characters. They're bland and have no concrete personalities. The format the book is told in doesn't help with connecting either. There are no chapters and the points of view oscillate between the main characters, Raychel and Matt. This format makes the story choppy and awkward to connect to.
Overall, After the Fall bit off more than it can chew. It tried to tackle a lot of important issues, but failed to offer anything substantial.
*Thanks to Fierce Reads for providing me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.*
I was so excited to read this- the premise sounded AMAZING (books about consent? Yes, please!). However, this is less about consent than it is a highly uncomfortable romance. I personally find it extremely therapeutic to read about characters who parallel my real-life experiences. Unfortunately, yes, I was expecting it to be one of those books. I'll be honest- this was hard to get though. And not because of the subject matter; I am very familiar with gritty situations. I had started reading it a few weeks ago, had to put it down then trudged through the rest after a quick refresher.
I didn't care for any of the three MCs: Raychel, Andrew and Matt (who are brothers), all of whom are friends. But (surprise, surprise!) the romance factor swoops in early and we find both brothers have eyes for Raychel. And Raychel feels the same way, about one... Which brother will she choose?
At the same time, Raychel gets assaulted at a party by a guy who had done it to her before. There could have been a wonderful plot-line where Raychel fights back; this would have been the "consent" book I was hoping for. This is not the case. Andrew and Matt's mother (a lawyer) finds out about this and instead of ENCOURAGING her to tell her story, perhaps press charges, she just rubs it off as this: 'I was worried that Mrs. R. would be legally obligated to report what happened, but she promised not to. "To be honest, you'd never get a conviction."'
What the actual hell?!?! Yes that may be the case but to just shut down an assault like that, to pretend that it was nothing- ESPECIALLY from someone who was supposed to be in Raychel's corner? UGH!!! Later on, Raychel discusses this and says that since it wasn't rape, there isn't anything they can do about it (especially since "everyone thinks I'm a slut anyways"- this would have been the perfect time to shut down slut-shaming!). Okay, maybe so, but still. There could have been so many ways the plot could have gone after this. Instead, we get the shitty love triangle because there's nothing more fascinating than picking the better brother.
The "consent" aspect of this book is lessened by a death, which just ruined the last bit for me. There's tons of grief, pain of "not being able to have the one you love", but the whole assault thing got ended by having the guy get "No means no!" posters on his car and having to take a women's studies class in college. Wow, really? That's just a wonderful thing to put in a book that will surely land in many teen's hands: "boys will be boys"- there will be no consequences, there will be no apologies.
But I think what angered me the most about this book is that it wasn't like the author is completely blind to social issues- in fact, Raychel makes several comments about gender inequality, a woman's right to her body and abortions, etc. And yet- one of the most important parts of the book- she just let it fall off the radar, like it was just something that happened. No big deal. Because it's not a big deal unless it's rape right? It doesn't matter unless someone is physically inside of you? No, Hart intended to make it this way which is completely irresponsible and pisses me off. Is this one of those times where I can just wish ignorance is bliss?
Do I recommend this? No. The only reason why I'm giving this two stars instead of one is because there are some points of trying to figure out what you're doing after high school that's worthy of mentioning. Also the feeling of not being good enough- vying for a better job, a better school, a better life. I didn't think the brother thing would be so bad- until the abrupt turn in the middle. Another minor thing to gripe about: there are no chapters, only the different POVs. But there aren't any page separations, many times having two characters on the same page. I'm not sure if it's just the ARC version or if it will really be published this way. Either way it just makes for uneven pacing. The ending is predictable and disappointing. I really wish I had enjoyed this; I so wanted to. There were too many things going on here and sadly, none of them panned out.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
AFTER THE FALL is one of the most powerful and beautiful books that I have ever read. I am well and truly blown away right now, and I can’t believe this is Kate Hart’s debut - I will be reading every book she writes from now on, I loved this book THAT much.
This is a book mainly about three characters and their complicated relationships. Raychel, who is torn between two brothers – her best friend Matt, and Andrew, who is a sort of charming slacker type. Everyone around her always expected Raychel to end up with smart, responsible Matt, including Raychel herself. In spite of this, she ends up being drawn more to Andrew, which leads to a lot of tension between the once tight knit group.
This plot is just a starting point, though, as Hart uses these relationships to tackle important topic in a very personal way. This book is filled with thoughtful meditations on assault, consent, gender roles, depression, and poverty. I thought each of these were dealt with appropriate weight, and I felt that it tackled these topics in a way that felt new and also so very true. This is because Hart roots these discussions in these characters who feel like real people, so even while I was, say, disagreeing with something tone-deaf Matt was saying, I could see why he was saying those things. It was masterfully done.
I thought this book was so moving and so very powerful, so I will be recommending this to everyone. Five stars.
This was really absorbing, and I really liked how thoughtfully the book steeped its events in context that didn't just address sexism but socioeconomic disparity as well. Probably the biggest thing I took away, though, was the spark of conversation starter about straight* guys and girls being friends. (*or bi, which I think based on one line she's intended to be? Point being, guys and girls attracted to each other's genders.) I know it wasn't expressed in the book as universal commentary, rather very specifically on Matt and Raychel, but it worked on a more general level for me anyway.
I have a few more thoughts but I'm on my phone and am afraid to screw up spoiler tagging on the app, so I'll save them until I'm at a computer!
Okay, so when I saw the synopsis I honestly thought this would be a triangle between Raychel, Matt, and Andrew... I fully went into it expecting that. Initially, I was a little disappointed when it didn't seem to be that way. However, what I got I didn't expect and I loved every heartbreaking minute of it.
Raychel has a thing about not being with high school boys, but according to her best friend Matt she does hook up with college boys, so when rumors start flying about Carson and Raychel he wonders why she broke it with him. Well the truth is so much more than that.
However, one night when Raychel and Matt get into a fight, she ends up hanging out with Andrew and telling him almost everything (not the truth about Carson, but close to it) and then they make out. Which leads to them sneaking around for awhile, until another incident happens with Carson.
Everyone ends up in a fight until the truth really comes out, and then Raychel and Andrew have a talk and decide to actually label what they are doing, and come with their family and Matt. But then something happens... and everything changes.
I want to say so much more about all of this, I couldn't stop reading this book and it broke my heart more than once. I wanted to slap Raychel, Andrew, Carson and most of all Matt. This is a story about missed chances, assumptions, and consent. I could actually see why Raychel ends up with Andrew and why they care about each other so much. Matt is a bit of a jerk, but he does learn the extremely hard way and grows up.
Raychel's growth and maturity are heartbreakingly beautiful to read, I wanted to shake her, hug her and so many other emotions. I am at a loss for words, I don't want to give away what happens, but I fiercely wish it had been different. I wanted so much more out of my ship, but it was amazing nonetheless.
I liked how complex all the characters were in this. They felt like real teenagers, multi layered and flawed. The parents in the book were also portrayed very well. So often in books parents are so unrealistic or one dimensional. They are often hardly there, or exist just to be a foil to their children. In this case, they felt like real people who had realistic and complex reactions to the situations around them.
I did enjoy this book and thought it was well done. I thought the sexual assault was handled well. It wasn’t as cut and dry as is often the case in teen books, and therefore it leads to some interesting discussion about consent.
However, I did feel like the book dragged a little in the middle. This may have been because I predicted an important plot point. This had a negative effect on my reading experience. I was less emotionally affected by the events and their fallout (this might also be because I was reading this the night of the American election, and was feeling a bit numb- I was in a bit of shock while reading it).
However, the second half of the book was again subtle and complex, and things didn’t end with a neat bow, which was refreshing. I think some people will really appreciate this book. It is a subtle exploration of friendship, and grief, with commentary on misogyny and consent. It is definitely worth the read.
*I received an advanced reader copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music Inc. in exchange for an honest review*
There was so much wrong with this book, I don't know why I didn't give up on it to be honest. None of the characters are likeable, which isn't always a problem but I just didn't care what happened to any of them. It felt like the author was trying to cram too many different things into one book, yet at the same time nothing really happened. The teens don't seem realistic (who does that many extra curricular activities at school?! And then has the time to get drunk as much as these kids do!), and the parents are annoying as well.
Overall it was just boring, and I didn't like how we switched between characters different viewpoints so frequently - some chapters weren't even half a page long. I don't know really what else to say other than that you'll probably only like this if you like depressing YA novels where everyone is inexplicably in love with the main character.
Wow. What an incredibly powerful book. This story is so raw, so heartbreaking, and so honest. I don't even know how to talk about it without spoilers, but I will say that it's complex and nuanced and messy in all the best ways. A necessary and stunning read that will stay with you long after you finish.
I started reading this book after I finished The Handmaid's Tale. And I experienced total book deja vu. Has that ever happened to you? The two books are totally unrelated - I picked this one by chance because it was on my to-read list and it happened to be available through the library - but it has references and quotes from The Handmaid's Tale throughout the book! Fascinating!
Deja vu aside, I give this book 3 stars.
There were some really important and timely topics being addressed in this book. Most importantly, the simple fact that a respected adult figure in the book takes aside Raychel, the female high school aged character, and talks to her about sexual assault. Sexual assault during your high school years can be especially confusing because there are so many different factors and influences. I think it is important that girls (and guys) understand this.
"She puts her hand on my arm. “I want you to listen, and really hear what I say,” she says, pulling back to hold my hand. “You made some bad decisions. Everyone does. But that doesn’t give him the right.” Her face is just like Andrew and Matt’s when she’s angry—all twitchy and full of fire. “No one has the right to touch you without your consent. I don’t care if you parade down the street naked and stand three inches from his face—no one touches you unless you say so. And even if they’ve had your permission, they stop when you say stop. That’s your right. Not his. Yours.”
Having said that, I do have some problems with Raychel.
*** Spoiler alert! The next part discusses some specifics from the book! ***
1. Raychel said that Matt is her best friend. But she doesn't really treat him like one. I can understand being best friends with a boy, but I think that it gives any straight boy mixed messages when a girl sneaks into his bed at night to cuddle up and sleep next to him. Share his bed if you are scared, maybe, but you can stay on your own side. It's not like they were trying to survive hypothermia.
2. I was going to ignore it when it first came up, but it the second time it came up, it struck me as a little strange. Matt and Raychel go hiking and he takes pictures of her rock climbing. Raychel explains to the reader that she has no clean underwear except for her black lacy pair so she wears those. But while she is climbing and Matt is taking photos, she keeps hoping that her lacy underwear isn't showing too much (they were.) Uh hello. Maybe I can understand her having to wear her good undies as a last resort, but what was she wearing over them? Were all of her normal hiking clothes in the laundry as well? Does this girl not have sweat pants? or leggings? or work out pants? Come on.
And I am not alone, everyone in the book thought that Raychel was romantically involved with Matt! Including his parents! I can understand having a boy as your bestie, but can't Raychel see how she may have mislead him a bit?
I didn't dislike this book. But there was a lot of things going on in this book. Sexual assault, the best friend issue, death, college, absent parental figures, money issues, etc. Maybe if it had focused more on one thing rather than trying to tackle so many issues - I would have been able to understand the characters a little bit more.
I was so disappointed with this book. I had such high hopes and was expecting so much from it, but it ended up being not the greatest book I’ve ever read. The premise sounded so interesting and I was hoping to see some of the things that happened addressed, but they really weren’t. I don’t know, it was quite a mess.
I wasn’t the biggest fan of the writing style, to be honest. It wasn’t a badly written book, but I just didn’t click with it that much. Also I feel that during the first half of the book (the one that was called “before the fall”) nothing really was happening besides relationship drama. There was hardly a plot to follow, and I don’t mind character driven stories, but I didn’t like the cast of characters in this particular book, so I wasn’t enjoying the story.
The characters were so plain, unremarkable and boring that it was so hard to connect with them throughout the story. They didn’t have much of a personality and I completely hated Matt. He was such an asshole, and I found his points of view not only boring but unnecessary. He didn’t add anything to the story besides juvenile and childish comments about why he deserved to date his best friend.
The second part was a bit better than the first one, since it had a bit of a plot to follow, but still I wasn’t into the story at all. The characters hardly had an evolution until the last 30 pages, and I feel some of the bigger events that happened that made those characters evolved were to cause a reaction to the reader, and were just odd to me. There were some important things that needed to be addressed in the story, and though they kind of were, I feel they didn’t give it much importance, and they should have.
So overall, I was pretty disappointed with this book. I was expecting so much more from it, and not only I was bored during most of the book, but also I didn’t really connect with the characters that much.
I definitely appreciate this books focus on sexism (subtle and obvious), consent, harassment, etc. But the story was just... not.. entertaining. I couldn’t discern the differences between the characters voices, despite them having very different viewpoints. I couldn’t believe the emotions of the characters, nor their actions. Characters were introduced at what I felt were odd times. The major twist is pretty predictable just based on the synopsis, so if you haven’t read the synopsis yet, skip it. None of the storylines were wrapped up at the end and I was surprised when I turned the last page and the book was over. Quite unsatisfying for me. I think I need to start steering away from this genre. But I really do hope more books will start introducing a lot of the topics that were present in this book. Just maybe a little more smoothly.