Leigh Hunter is just a regular teenage guy who works hard in school, spends time with friends, and hangs out with his girlfriend, and suddenly his life is interrupted by the death of his stepsister’s father. Because Leigh is an incredibly sweet person who puts other people’s interests above his own, he decides to go and live with Millie, his stepsister, and his father and stepmother for a few months while Millie works out her grief. While staying with them, he meets Maia, a troubled neighbor who spends a lot of time with Millie… and of course, he falls in love with Maia almost immediately. Things are going just fine for Leigh and Maia for a short time (besides the fact that he still has a girlfriend back home), until something awful happens in Maia’s life. Leigh is a great guy, sure, but at the exact time that Maia needs him most, he betrays her trust and hurts her deeply in the process. After the Moment is, at its core, a novel about young love, and about what can happen when that love is pushed to its limits.
I have to admit that I was unfortunate enough to read a few negative reviews of After the Moment when I had just started reading the book. Yes, I should have ignored those reviews and read them after I finished the book, but they were written by bloggers I respect and admire so I couldn’t help myself. So I’m not completely sure if my thoughts about the book are because I was impacted by what I read, or because I truly would have felt this way anyway.
At the most basic level, After the Moment is a sweet story about first love. I think everyone can recall their first experience with being in love, with how overwhelming every emotion was and how much you feel like you just want to protect and take care of that other person. Leigh is in this exact situation – even though he’s been in a serious relationship, he’s never really known the kind of love he feels for Maia. He loves her so much that when she tells him something, this HUGE thing that is incredibly difficult for anyone, especially a teenager, to deal with – he can’t handle it in a mature way. He just wants to protect her, to shelter her from the pain she’s going through. And so he reacts in a very teenager-like way, in a way that Maia specifically had asked him not to, and the question becomes, can Maia forgive him? Should she even want to forgive him for doing something that she had already explained would hurt her so badly?
For some reason, I knew there was this THING that was going to happen with Maia, and I was pretty sure I knew what it was before opening the book, but I ended up being very wrong. This is why I am not going to spoil this particular plot point for you, because I was really shocked by it and appropriately so. Had I guessed correctly, I wouldn’t have been surprised at all and probably would have been annoyed by the predictability of it. So, that part of the book was very intriguing for me. For those of you who’ve read the book, I’m DYING to discuss this in more detail, so email me if you have anything in particular to say about it!
I enjoyed reading about the relationship between Leigh and Maia, it was sweet and very teenager-y, but at the same time I don’t know if it was deep enough for my liking. It just seemed too quick, even for high schoolers, to fall in love. It also annoyed me a LOT that Leigh technically was still in another relationship throughout the entire book when he was supposedly in love with Maia. I like boys in books to be honest with their significant others, as a rule, and Leigh was the opposite of honest with his girlfriend Astra. I would also agree with several other bloggers who have mentioned the fact that After the Moment touches on many different issues – anorexia, the Iraq war, death, and divorce, to name a few – but doesn’t really delve into any of them very deeply. I just felt like had there been a more in-depth exploration of any one of these topics, I may have fallen in love with these characters and this story, and as it happened, I just didn’t.
So, in conclusion – I liked After the Moment, but I did not love it. It is absolutely not a bad book, but there were several drawbacks to the novel, in my opinion, that if improved could have made for a fantastic book. Even though the novel was far from perfect, I still found myself caring about the characters and rooting for (some of) them in the end. I am glad I had the chance to read this one, but it won’t be making my favorites list any time soon.