Afterthoughts for Afterlove by Tanya Byrne

“The lesbian love story you’ve been dying to read.” Afterlove by Tanya Byrne delivers on this promise and so much more. It’s easily up there now as one of my favourite romance novels, and is a must-read.

I’ve been wanting to review this book for quite some time now. The author’s writing is absolutely beautiful, and will take you on an emotional rollercoaster.

This story is a ride which transcends life, and follows love far into death. The highs of this ride will fill you with hope, and the lows will then fill you with tears.

Do I recommend this book? Definitely. It’s a light read, and accomplishes what it aims to do. It’s an adorable romance story, filled with plenty of thought-provoking passages and vivid imagery.

This novel is split into a Before and After, which follows 16-year-old Ash. She’s a proud Indo-Guyanese girl, who falls in love with the bright and bold Poppy Morgan. However, when everything finally seems to be going right, her world crashes into a million pieces like glass.

Car headlights. The last thing Ash hears is the snap of breaking glass as the windscreen hits her and shatters into a million pieces like stars. But she made it, she’s still here. Or is she?

This New Year’s Eve, Ash gets an invitation from the afterlife she can’t decline: to join a clan of fierce girl reapers who take the souls of the city’s dead to await their fate.

But Ash can’t forget her first love, Poppy, and she will do anything to see her again … even if it means they only get a few more days together. Dead or alive …

Book Blurb

The first half of this novel is dedicated to building up Ash’s family life, her friends, and her struggles. The author specifically also explores her sexual orientation, and how it conflicts with her family’s background and culture.

It’s here where I think Afterlove really shines. The author does an amazing job showing the different sides of coming out through Ash and Poppy. There is a stark difference with how their families reacted.

It’s also encouraging to see LGBT representation for minority groups, as well as how the experience might differ for them due to the cultural differences.

Byrne also captures the feeling of falling in love perfectly. Seeing the relationship between Ash and Poppy grow felt genuine, and intimate.

The author also often compares falling in love and one’s soul to the cosmos and the celestial bodies that reside within it. The imagery she creates with this is beyond description. She makes love feel like something ethereal.

She often pulls on quotes from the American astronomer Carl Sagan for this. Here is one of my favourite lines from the book:

“Then she touches me — really touches me — and it’s enough to make something in my chest flare, then collapse in on itself. And I understand then what Mr Moreno means when he says that’s how galaxies are made.”
Don’t judge a book by its cover… But if we did, Afterlove would easily take top spot. The art is gorgeous!

The second half of the novel is when the touch of magic kicks in. I’m a huge fan of love stories with a hint of the supernatural, as you could probably tell from my Boy Swallows Universe review. Love is magical, so it’s only reasonable a story about romance should have it.

In the second half, Ash finds out the hard way that there is life after death. She joins a clan of reapers, tasked to guide the souls of those who have died. Which the author utilises well to explore the themes of grief, mourning, and love well.

One of my favourite questions Afterlove poses is — what would you do to be with the person you love again? Would you see them at all costs? Even if it meant their life?

I don’t have much criticism for Afterlove, except for the fact I would have liked to see more. The book focuses on grief mainly from the romantic perspective with Poppy, but it would have been nice to explore it from her friends and family too.

With that being said, it is a romance novel and delivers on that. My main takeaway and favourite part about Afterlove is how it destigmatizes love. Too often, people try to shun or shame love, saying it’s “too cringey.”

Afterlove perfectly captures the spirit of love and teen romance. It makes you want to experience the love they do in movies and books. The one they write poetry for and sing songs about. Everybody deserves that type of love, and it’s also why you should give this book a read.

By Camellia Hao Ren

Camellia Hao Ren is an Australian journalist and editor. When they aren't writing, they are usually playing games or reading.

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