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After Us (Before and After #2) by Amber Hart

After Us (Before and After #2) by Amber Hart

4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
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.

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My Review
After Us takes place on the heels of the epilogue of Before You, picking up the stories of Faith’s and Diego’s best friends, Melissa and Javier. Melissa is dealing with more than the physical loss of her best friend in the way of a health issue that has altered her life forever. When Faith won’t even answer her phone, Melissa feels untethered and adrift as she copes with her new life. I admit that I miss fun-loving Melissa, even though I understand how the events in her life shaped her. I just wish she’d have retained more of her spunk.

Even so, After Us is a compelling tale and in some ways better than its predecessor. Much of the best parts of the story center around Javier. Not only has he lost his best friend, but also his cousin. And family is everything to this strong Cuban. He wants revenge from the gang that killed Diego. Torn between his attraction to Melissa, a mother who will not accept a gringa in her son’s life, and the desire to avenge his cousin’s death, Javier has his hands full.

Plot
The main plot is the romance between Javier and Melissa, with subplots of a forbidden love, Melissa’s illness that she keeps secret, and Javier’s drive to join the MS-13 gang to take them down from the inside, all keeping them apart. The various subplots have their own arcs that all collide in a nail-biting conclusion that’s pretty intense.

World Building
Once again, Amber Hart does a fabulous job of creating a lively south Florida Cuban culture. We get to see how cultural differences can drive conflict, or can overcome it.

Characters
Melissa is sweet, but far more damaged than she was in the first book and as I mentioned, I miss that side of her. She’s strong, and I would have liked to see that strength beat back some of the darkness surrounding her. To see more pieces of the vibrant Melissa I fell in love with in Before You. Javier is richly layered, complex, and conflicted. The rest of the cast are shown to us at a high level, but enough that they fulfill their roles without being two-dimensional.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About  After Us
1. Javier’s big, crazy, Hispanic family. They love deeply and are loyal to a fault.

2. Melissa’s smaller, yet close-knit family that surround each other with love and acceptance.

3. Melissa job. I want a job where I make good tips working on a beach every day, even if the San Diego beaches aren’t nearly as warm as the South Florida ones.

4. Javier’s misguided determination to do what he believes he needs to. I admire his grit.

5. Javier and Melissa’s love for one another is sweet and solid. I never doubted these two would end up together for all the right reasons.

Bottom Line
After Us is a sweet love story wrapped up in darker themes of gangs, revenge, and racism.

Disclaimer
I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Title: After Us
Series: Before and After #2
Author: Amber Hart
Publisher: K-Teen
Release Date: December 30, 2014
Pages: 369
Category: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links:  Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes&NobleiBooks | Kobo

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Author Amber Hart

Author Amber Hart

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.

Where to Find Amber Hart
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest