Afterlove by Tanya Byrne

Afterlove is an unconventional YA love story about not being separated by death. When Ash Persaud falls in love with Poppy, the girl she met on a school trip to the local wind farm, it seems the world has opened up for them, but then Ash dies not long afterwards. However, Ash doesn’t leave Brighton, but instead is called upon to join a team of local reapers, pointing souls towards their journey to whatever comes afterwards. Ash is desperate to see Poppy again, but it’s not so easy when one of them is dead and the other alive.

This is a fresh novel that shows a whirlwind romance and then a story that takes a very different approach to teenage love and loss, focusing on the afterlife, fighting for someone, and what really matters. The book really comes in two parts, and they are notably different: the ‘before’ section focuses on Ash, on her relationships with those in her life, and her falling in love with Poppy, and then the ‘after’ section is more about the rules of being a reaper and Ash and Poppy getting to see each other again. Ash and Poppy’s story starts as a fun first love tale after Ash’s repeated disappointments with other girls she’d met (it’s great to see her supportive best friend looking out for her) and then becomes something different, with higher stakes but still whirlwind emotions. It’s cute, but also when you step back from the story an interesting look at relationships and youthful love and how you view the future.

Afterlove combines a contemporary lesbian love story with an afterlife plotline and a Brighton setting to make a quirky book that a lot of readers will enjoy. The characters, including Ash’s new reaper friends and those from her ‘life’, are vivid and interesting, though due to the narrative format it did feel a shame to no longer see into the lives of the latter supporting characters later in the book. There’s a fair amount of YA that features death in similar and different ways, but this one handles it in a quirky way that gives it a romcom feel without lessening the reaper/afterlife element.