Hereafter is a recent supernatural YA release by author Tara Hudson.
Amelia knows only three things - her first name, her age (eighteen), and the fact that no one can see her. She knows the last one to be excruciatingly true after many desperate pleas and screams at passersby who didn't even blink. Most of the time she just aimlessly floats along the river, unaware of time or really anything else. She smells nothing, feels nothing. She is nothing.
Then she has her recurring nightmare. Drowning. Struggling. Panicking. Until she wakes up, terrified, in a graveyard. Every time it is the same. Every time she runs out of the graveyard without looking at the tombstones. Because she already thinks she knows why her existence is so vague and without memory...
She must be dead.
But then one day when she thinks her nightmare is beginning again, Amelia realizes that this time it is different. It's never different. This time its real. A boy, around her age, is in the water with her. His eyes are closed, his arms spread wide, and he's unconscious.
And all of a sudden - she can hear his heartbeat. It's slowing. He's dying. Just like her.
Purpose awakens Amelia from her stupor and she tries vainly to wake him up, to save him. To save him like she wasn't saved. But she's unable to touch him, to pull him up to the surface. All she can do is beg and will him to do it himself.
Then - he opens his eyes. Eyes that seem to see her. And he starts to swim.
Amelia is stunned and, for the first time, has a reason to notice time passing. She is waiting for him to return. And he does. His name is Joshua, and they begin to grow close. He wants to help her.
But then, Eli comes. Eli is a spirit, like her, but seems malicious and frightening. And he wants to take her to the ghost world. He promises answers to all her questions.
Yet for the first time, Amelia has a reason to stay...
Hereafter has a startling, haunting, intense start that brings you the sense of loneliness that Amelia has endured for who knows how long, until there is a bright light of hope in the moment Joshua's eyes seem to see her. From there, I was continually wowed by my empathy for Amelia, the intrigue of not knowing exactly what's going on, and chilled by Eli's arrival - which feels invasive to what feels like Amelia's first chance at happiness after such a long time of nothing.
Tara Hudson has penned a sweetly romantic unique ghost story that melds burning attraction with compassionate understanding, creating a creative, never-before-told version of a campfire legend - very character driven, scary, sad, touching, hopeful, riveting, nerve-wracking, suspenseful, and beautifully eloquent!
And when, later on in the novel, Hereafter presents us with a horrifying memory/flashback in which Amelia is forced to play her role (as her memories, when they start to come, are so vivid yet leave her so aware), is terrifying and super creepy. It gives it a horror edge - and sent chills down my spine. This is definitely a multilayered book!
I was extremely impressed! Hereafter is a lovely, amazing, romantic, poignant, truly excellent novel that had me turning pages obsessively, invested in these wonderful characters - characters who are easy to care for and root for as they try to figure out the strange circumstance they are in. I felt the author's love for them - and I joined her in the admiration.
This is a journey worth taking - no question.
***ALERT: Due to continued bibliophile reading overdosing, I am continuing the 5 reviews a week through August. After that, I am absolutely returning to only 3 reviews a week in September and on. So, we'll just think of this as a summer special! Thanks for reading!!!