Title: After Eden (After Eden #1)
Author: Helen Douglas
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's Books
Released: 7th November 2013 (first published 4th July 2013)
Rating: 3 of 5 stars
When new boy Ryan Westland starts at her school, Eden knows there's something different about him, and it's not that he's American. He seems like a normal teenager, except for the fact that he doesn't seem to be able to recognise basic things, like pizza. And he's never heard of Hitler. Who hasn't heard of Hitler? Little things like that create the one big mystery that is Ryan. But these are things that can be explained away, however unlikely. Eden and Ryan gradually spend more and more time together, soon becoming fast friends and then something more. But at Ryan's house, Eden discovers an autobiography of her best friend...and it's from the future. Piecing things together, she discovers who Ryan really is and why he is there. The truth is more shocking than she could have realised, and she herself plays an integral part.
After Eden made for a quick, entertaining read. It had a simple writing style which flowed easily, although I noticed that it mainly comprised of dialogue. It was not a particularly deep read, and the time travel side of it was not difficult to understand. I appreciated the astrological references to help boost the sci-fi theme, and it generally made for interesting reading. One thing this book really was good at was pointing out how one small thing can affect everything else. When I read the prologue, I didn't understand the significance of it; I didn't understand what it was supposed to tell me or do for me as a reader. Later, however, when I had more information, I understood what that scene meant, and it really makes you think about how much impact one simple choice, or one simple moment, can have. I wouldn't say this is a particularly plot-driven novel, however. The pace was, for the most part, easy-going, only really building up towards the end.
The characters were decent enough, but forgettable. I really did think the romance between Ryan and Eden sweet, and I enjoyed seeing their relationship develop. Having said that, there was nothing to make them stand out. With Eden's character, my feelings for her actually bordered on dislike at times. I didn't care for the way she was behaving simply because she was around a good-looking guy, and she was in denial over a fact that was painfully obvious; I wish she'd just step up and acknowledge the truth. This brings me to her relationship with her best friend, Connor - really, it was a trio of close friends: Eden, Connor and Megan. The bonds between them here were inconsistent, made little sense and seemed to change for no apparent reason. Aside from the fact that Eden and Connor had known each other since they were young children, I didn't understand why they were friends. And then, finally, there was the cleaner - someone related to Ryan's time travel mission, whose job it is to make sure things are as they should be and there is no trouble in any shape or form. I worked out who it was before anyone else - although no-one seemed to actually try and work it out - and again here was a change in character - one I really didn't see as necessary. It was like the author was trying to create an obvious villain and make us root for Eden, yet it just came across as messy. I can't really be clearer than that without giving anything away.
Douglas has made a decent effort here with her novel, and it was easy enough to read it in one sitting. The romance was sweet, the plot undemanding. If what you're looking for is something quick or simple, then this is one to consider. But there is no substance, nothing that will really make you connect with anyone, no real reason for you to remember this after reading it. I would recommend this only as a filler book, something to pass the time; somehow it makes for quite a readable book, but it certainly isn't one of the better sci-fi novels out there.