Blog Tour: After the Fall by Kate Hart

Rating: 4 stars
Pub Date: January 24, 2017
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Genre: young adult contemporary romance
Format/Source: ARC/DRC, from the publisher
Status: standalone

Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review as part of the blog tour, which was organized & hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. The full tour schedule can be found HERE. Please go give my fellow tour hosts some love!

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A YA debut about a teen girl who wrestles with rumors, reputation, and her relationships with two brothers.

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.

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 situation. 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 mean she 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!

Purchase Links:

Tour Schedule:
Week One:
1/16: addicted2books: Spotlight
1/17: BookHounds YA: Interview
1/18: Wandering Bark Books: Guest Post
1/20: Curling Up With A Good Book: Interview

Week Two:
1/23: Pretty Deadly Reviews: Review
1/24: Brittany's Book Rambles: Guest Post
1/25: Arctic Books: Review
1/26: Owl Always Be Reading: Interview

About the Author:
After studying Spanish and history at a small liberal arts school, Kate Hart taught young people their ABCs, wrote grants for grownups with disabilities, and now builds treehouses for people of all ages. Her debut YA novel, After the Fall, is coming winter 2017 from FSG. She also contributes to YA Highway, hosts the Badass Ladies You Should Know, and (will soon sell) inappropriate handicrafts at The Badasserie.

Kate is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, and owns a treehouse-building business in northwest Arkansas, where she resides with her family.

Author Links:

3 winners will each receive a finished copy of After the Fall. US only.

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  1. This sounds fantastic. I already had it on my tbr list. I can't wait to read it!

  2. “Seventeen-year-old Raychel is sleeping with two boys” as an opening line in the blurb definitely makes no good to this book. I think I make a decision that this book is not for me as soon as I read it. Thanks for you thoughtful review, I definitely want to give this story a try.

    1. I don't understand why they put that in the summary. It's so not what the story is about, and it's distracting. I hope you give it a shot!

  3. I've been curious about this book since I read the little blurb. I want to know more.

  4. This sounds seriously deep and seriously interesting.

    1. It is! It's very emotional. I hope you give it a try!

  5. Thanks so much for the review, this books sounds amazing! Adding to my to read list!