Tuesday, 19 November 2013
Review: After Eden by Helen Douglas
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's Books
Format: Paperback / eBook
Released: November 7th, 2013
When mysterious new boy Ryan Westland shows up at her school Eden Anfield is intrigued. On the face of it, he's a typical American teenager. So how come he doesn't recognise pizza and hasn't heard of Hitler? What puzzles Eden most, however, is the interest he's taking in her. As Eden falls in love with Ryan, she stumbles across a book in Ryan's bedroom - a biography of her best friend - written fifty years in the future. Unravelling Ryan's secret, she discovers he has one unbelievably important purpose ... and she might just have destroyed his only chance of success.
After Eden is a novel I've been looking forward to reading for a while. I liked the premise and the cover and am always intrigued when it comes to UK debut authors. I expected to like it, but I definitely didn't expect to like it as much as I did. I'm still thinking about it now, hours after finishing it! I don't get that with every book I read, so when I do, I know it's something special.
After Eden is a thoroughly compelling, addictive story of time-travel and what would happen if we ever discovered it could actually be done. There's a fantastic romance that weaves it's way through the book which is both believable and realistic, given that one of the characters is a visitor to our time. The whole story seemed to me like it could easily have been a missing episode from Roswell, one of my all-time top TV shows, so that's a huge compliment when I say that.
After Eden made me think a lot, about life and what we do with it. How one tiny event can change the course of history and life itself, whether that event seems massive or insignificant at the time of it occurring. It made me wonder what Earth will be like in a hundred years, if new planets will have been discovered and whether there really is other life out there (for the record, I've always been convinced there is. How arrogant to think we're the only people in the whole universe!). I like a book that makes me think and question ideas, so After Eden was a perfect read for me.
Usually in these kinds of YA books, books that have an important romance as part of the central plot, the characters can seem forced and completely unbelievable. In this case, Helen Douglas has created two people - Eden and Ryan - that could well be real people falling in love and experiencing that rush for the first time. They don't talk like they're from Dawson's Creek, they don't offer over the top declarations and they certainly don't believe they're the centre of the world. Eden is self-assured, practical and sensible and, rather than being obsessed with Ryan to the point of ridiculous, she accepts his situation and gets on with it. Ryan is also a great character: caring, loyal and literally carrying the responsibility of a world on his shoulders.
If I had to pick something that perhaps isn't so perfect, it's that Eden figures out Ryan's secret so fast, and accepts it just as quickly. Helen Douglas provides excellent explanations for all of it, but still: even Liz from Roswell took a little longer, and she was pretty quick off the mark. Or so I thought. Whether slightly unrealistic or not, I don't care, because I love this book so much and am quite happy to overlook a bit of convenient storytelling. After all, I don't know how everyone would react to a situation like this - would they be incredulous or on board? That's something no-one can predict.
I was so excited when I got an email confirming that, yes, After Eden is the first book in a series, with Chasing Stars publishing in June 2014. After the events of After Eden's conclusion, I'm intrigued as to what could possibly happen next and how Eden will handle it. I firmly believe that After Eden is one of the best YA books Bloomsbury have ever published, and I can't wait to read more from Helen Douglas!