I’m Reading ‘After’ So You Don’t Have To


If you haven’t heard of Anna Todd, After, or “Hessa,” you clearly spend less time on the internet than I do and for that, I applaud you. And also, another congratulations, because you haven’t had to come to terms with the fact that teenagers today write the grossest, smuttiest fan fiction about their favorite TV characters, YouTubers, and actual celebrities. I thought Potterrotica was intense (seriously Draco and Hermione have done some very dirty things to each other on fanfiction.net…not that I would know). This is a whole other level of freakiness, in my opinion, because a real person is involved.

Here’s the gist.

Self-described “army wife” and “One Direction fangirl” Anna Todd slaved over her phone to type out a three book series titled After on the app Wattpad. The center of Todd’s saga? Good girl Tessa and a stereotypical damaged, tattooed, and pierced up version of Harry Styles. It’s all very comparable to everyone’s favorite mommy porn Fifty Shades of Grey. Just instead of capitalizing on bored, undersexed ladies in the suburbs, Anna Todd is making bank off of horny teenagers who romanticize the idea that a rock star with a lip ring would want to peel off their skinny jeans.

The similarities between Fifty Shades and After are unbelievable — and not just because of the content. Todd’s filthy little tale has been read over a billion times online — yes a billion. She’s signed a six-figure book deal with Simon & Schuster, created an entire line of jewelry centered around the series, and recently sold the rights to a film version to Paramount. Not too shabby for a girl writing sex scenes about her favorite band member on her iPhone.

So why am I writing about her? I first heard about Todd’s story when I was clearly being very productive on Bustle. I googled it, not totally believing that another fanfic could be turning into a movie and fell down a wormhole of interviews, articles, and general essays all centered around the 25-year-old’s launch into the spotlight. And I’ll admit it — I’m really damn jealous.

As someone with goals centered around being a writer and being in a creative field, it kind of grinds my gears that a girl can write gratuitous sex scenes involving a boy band member she’s never met and become a millionaire off of it. So what was my next natural step?

I read it.

And I’m going to do it again.

Anna Todd admitted that After had to be “ripped apart and reconstructed” before being published. So let’s rip it apart. I will be going through Volume One of the series and providing a rundown of what to expect along with my own (probably snarky) commentary as well. Want to join in? Go spend $16 on your own copy of the 582-page erotica and leave your thoughts in the comments section.

Some initial thoughts on purchasing and carrying around After:

First and foremost, don’t go looking for it in the “Teen Romance Section” of your local Barnes & Noble. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me but you cannot put things that graphically describe going down on a girl on the Teen Lit shelf — even if we all know it’s centered around 1D. And by 1D I mean One Direction, not a dick all though I know I’m really gonna love that pun throughout this little adventure.

They must purposefully put the “Romance” section in the back in hopes of deterring underagers from sneaking back here to giggle at the sexy stuff. It’s dark, and nothing is very efficiently alphabetized. I grabbed my copy and darted away, trying to remain inconspicuous. I know that by even looking at the book I’m losing all credibility of appearing cool to strangers.

Of course I had to be checked out by the super cute, hipster book boy. He had a damn literary quote tattooed down his forearm — yeah 1984, I see you. I felt the need to be like “This isn’t mine, well it sort of is, I don’t know,” but I didn’t want to make it weirder so I just shook my head as I handed him my debit card and said “I know. I hate me too.” He didn’t laugh.

This book is thick enough to cause damage to someone if I chose to use it as a blunt object in a crime. How anyone had the willpower and the strength of thumbs to type out a book like this on their phone is beyond me. I can barely think of two euphemisms for penis, let along three books worth. I also don’t spend an admitted “eight hours a day” fantasizing about a fictional version of a celebrity so I guess I have that going for me.

Good god. Her first page is “reviews” by commenters on Wattpad. There is an aggravated emoji face used in a review of her book. This is going to be ridiculous.