I’ve been excited for the latest offering from Tanya Byrne for quite some time, so I was overjoyed when the amazing Emily Thomas at Team BKMRK sent me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
The lesbian love story you’ve dying to read. Ash Persaud is about to become a reaper in the afterlife, but she is determined to see her first love Poppy Morgan again, the only thing that separates them is death.
Car headlights.The last thing Ash hears is the snap of breaking glass as the windscreen hits her and breaks into a million pieces like stars. But she made it, she’s still here. Or is she?
This New Year’s Eve, Ash is gets an RSVP 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…
Not even death can tear them apart.
Publication Date: 22nd July
TW: death, grief, suicide, drug overdose
Occasionally, you come across a book that just leaves an imprint on your heart. Afterlove was one of those books for me.
Tanya Byrne is a genius.
After finishing this emotional wrecking ball of a book, I just had to sit there for a minute to collect my thoughts. Byrne’s writing is infused with such emotional vulnerability, power and quiet impact that leaves your heart in shards. Instantly, this became a new favourite for me. This is an emotionally devastating book. Byrne just draws you into this sweet, romantic tale of first love, only to hit you with a ton of bricks as this love is cruelly cut short. You are completely immersed and rooting for their love, even after death. From then on, the book evolves into a quiet, reflective and beautiful examination on the processes of grief and death. I loved Byrne’s inclusive interpretation of the afterlife, as it felt imaginative but respectful. Grief and death are such complex experiences and I felt like Byrne tackled their nuances in such a creative and cathartic way.
This is a tough read, as indicated by the trigger warnings and it is gut-wrenching at so many points. I found myself brought to tears by certain points in the book, which rarely happens with me. Despite this, what really shines through is the beauty and passion intertwined with the words on the page. This is fundamentally a story about love, both for others and for yourself. Afterlove is a tale about death, but it’s also about the fleeting joy of life. It’s in those everyday moments that just warm your heart. You can feel Byrne pour her heart and soul into this gorgeous story and it shows on every single page. I think that’s why this book hit home so hard for me, because I could see my own experiences reflected on the page but also those universal feelings of euphoria and heartbreak. Everyone will face death and grief in their lifetimes, but they’ll also experiences those moments that just fill them with joy.
Ash has a special place in my heart. I loved her journey with her family, particularly navigating her relationship with her mum and sister. Her warmth and spirit leapt off the page, though they were sometimes hidden under a quieter and snarkier demeanour. You become connected to her vivacious voice so, so quickly and I never wanted to leave her. I just wanted to give her a hug as she went through this confusing, heart-wrenching experience and grappled with her own afterlife. I really liked how Byrne used the reaper role to allow for Ash to find closure in her relationships, though there are some twists and turns along the way. Through Ash’s voice, you meet the wonderful Poppy. I loved the chemistry between the two of them and their dialogue just sparkled from the second they met each other. Byrne always kept an authentic teenage voice and gloss to the relationship though, with plenty of awkward moments, miscommunication and a few issues as well. This helped it feel like such a realistic relationship and it always felt like Ash and Poppy were three-dimensional, nuanced characters with their own thoughts and feelings.
Afterlove is just magnificent in every way, providing an exquisite meditation on grief, death, family and love that you should all be preordering immediately.