✶ Summary ✶
After follows incoming college freshman Tessa Young. The book begins with Tessa, her mom, and her boyfriend, Noah, arriving at Washington State University. Tessa’s conservative mother, Carol, tries to get Tessa to switch dorms to escape her alternative-styled roommate. Carol also warns Tessa of the dangers of college parties before leaving with Noah. After her first week at college, she goes with her roommate, Steph, to a party. At this party, she plays Truth or Dare with Steph’s friends, including one Hardin Scott. During this game, she admits she’s a virgin, and Hardin is dared to kiss her. Tessa runs from the group embarrassed, but Hardin follows her, and they share a moment. Later Hardin takes Tessa to a stream in the woods where he gives Tessa her first orgasm. Tessa implies they’re dating, but Hardin says he doesn’t date. This breaks Tessa’s heart. Mad at Hardin, Tessa invites Noah to stay with her but leaves him to go help a drunk Hardin. They argue but are intimate again. Tessa begs Noah for forgiveness for ditching him the night before, and he says he’ll think about it. After a dinner with Hardin’s family, he takes Tessa back to her dorm where Noah is waiting. The two boys almost fight, but Tessa tells Noah to leave after Hardin indirectly confesses his love for her. At some event, Hardin treats Tessa coldly then ditches her for some other girl. Mad, Tessa kisses Hardin’s friend in a game of Truth or Dare. To which Hardin kisses another girl in retaliation. Tessa tries to run away, but Hardin catches her and officially declares his love. Tessa rejects him and goes on a date with Hardin’s friend, Zed. They kiss but it makes Tessa realize how much she loves Hardin so she goes to him, and they confess their love for each other. Carol is waiting for them at Tessa’s dorm and demands Tessa stop seeing Hardin and get back with Noah or else she’ll cut her off. After Carol leaves, Hardin and Tessa argue but then have sex for the first time. Tessa moves in with Hardin, but on their second night together Hardin doesn’t come home. Tessa confronts Hardin about his behavior, and he finally admits that after the first game of Truth or Dare Hardin and Zed made a bet about who could take Tessa’s virginity, which Hardin proved by showing his friends her bloody sheets and a used condom. Hardin says that he fell in love with her during all this time and begs for her forgiveness. She leaves him. But wait! There are three more books, and they do end up together.
✶ Toxicity ✶
Where do I begin with what’s toxic about this? I feel like the summary alone is enough. But I’ll start with Tessa. Throughout the book, she slut-shames others (constantly), is sexist, and is “not like other girls.” Tessa begins seeing Hardin when she is still dating her boyfriend, Noah. So she cheats on a man who actually loves and respects her and never sees anything wrong with it. Tessa thinks she can change Hardin. She recognizes that Hardin does not treat her right. She says every time she’s with him she cries. She uses “jerk” and “rude” interchangeably with Hardin’s name. She acknowledges Hardin emotionally hurts her but lets him continue. Tessa excuses all of his bad behavior and abuse because of his bad past. She makes excuses for his abuse. Now some of this is because she is the victim of abuse, and she is trapped by him. But she thought he was rude from the get-go and still decided to pursue him. She knew the kind of guy he was, as she was warned by many people, and still got caught up in him. While it’s not her fault, she did make some bad choices, and neither she nor the book ever acknowledges this. Now let’s talk about Hardin. Hardin has anger issues and is violent with everyone. At one point Tessa worries he’ll slap her. But later she excuses his violent streak because she believes he would never hurt her. This is ignoring the fact that he grabs her, manhandles her, and is in general rough with her even when she tells him to leave her alone. Hardin is controlling of her. He manipulates her, threatens her, and plays mind games. He will beat people up if they flirt with her. Hardin has a rough past and can’t sleep without Tessa because otherwise he’ll have nightmares. He uses this to manipulate her when she wants to be left alone. Hardin doesn’t listen to her, and he clearly doesn’t respect her. They fight all the time. They fight then make up then fight then make up. This isn’t healthy, but this is all this relationship depicts. He says he’s sorry or that he loves her or that he needs her, and she immediately forgives him. Tessa talks about how she feels trapped by him. When he grabs her or pushes her against the wall, she wants to get away from him but feels frozen in place. She wants to leave him, but he sucks her back in. And the whole reason they’re together is because of a bet! This story could have been a great example of abuse and warn against the dangers of it. But instead it romanticizes them. She still ends up with him after all this, and all the other bad things he does later in the series. The overall message of this story is to continue fighting for a relationship and that people change. Which is a dangerous message for teens. Yes, in this story Hardin doesn’t seriously hurt her. But this kind of relationship can very easily end in hospitalization or death. So teens should not be taught that this is okay. This is a dark romance and while there is a market for that, that’s not how this book is marketed. It’s marketed as romantic and is geared towards teens.
✶ Quotes ✶
“Kiss me back, Tess,” he demands. “No,” I push at his chest. “Tell me you don’t feel the same and I will go.” His face is inches from mine, his breath hot on my face. “I don’t.” It hurts to say the words but he has to go. “Yes you do,” he says, his tone desperate. “I know you do.” “I don’t, Hardin. And neither do you. You can’t possibly think that I bought that.” He lets go of me. “You don’t believe that I love you?” “Of course not, how stupid do you think I am?” He stares at me a second before he opens his mouth and closes it again. “You’re right,” he says. “What?” He shrugs. “You’re right, I don’t love you.”
“What are you doing?” I ask him. When he looks up at me, his eyes are red and glossy. He’s drunk, great. “I came here to see you,” he says. “Why?” I whine. I want him here but not drunk and at 2:00 in the morning. “Because I missed you.” “Then why did you leave?” “Because you were annoying me.” “I’m going back to sleep. You’re drunk and you’re obviously going to be mean again. You should just go,” I say and lie back down, turning to face the wall. I don’t like this Hardin. I want my semi-sweet Hardin back, not this drunk jerk. “Oh baby, don’t be mad at me,” he says but I ignore him. “Do you really want me to go? You know what happens when I sleep without you,” he says, just above a whisper. My heart sinks. I do know what happens. “Fine, you can stay but I’m going back to sleep.” “I love you,” he says and brings his eyes to meet mine. His simple words dissolve most of my anger and I find myself wanting his arms around me.
✶ Photo gallery ✶

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