“Afterlove” by Tanya Byrne (Review)

Byrne, Tanya. Afterlove. 2021. New York: Godwin Books/Henry Holt and Company, 2022. 

ISBN-13: 978-1250865618 | $18.99 USD | 383 pages | YA Contemporary/Fantasy


In this powerful, all-encompassing YA love story, a girl who becomes a grim reaper must figure out what the future holds—especially when it comes to the girlfriend she left behind.

When Ashana Persaud meets Poppy Morgan on a school trip, she’s sure it’s too good to be true. Ash has never had much luck with girls, but Poppy proves different. Coffee dates turn to museum trips until, soon, the two girls can see a future together—one that’s seemingly snatched from them when a hit-and-run takes Ash’s life on New Year’s Eve.

As the last person to die before midnight, Ash is bestowed the title of reaper, tasked with finding lost souls and helping them cross over. Only those close to death can perceive a reaper, so when Ash runs into Poppy one lonely night—and Poppy recognizes her—they can’t be sure if it’s the second chance they’ve so desperately wished for, or a tragedy lying in wait.


5 stars

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley. Review based on final copy. All opinions are my own. 

Afterlove is a wonderful, original gem of a book. It’s simultaneously a love story and exploration of the impact of grief, written from a very real place, and it ultimately hits hard. 

I love the structure of the book, being split into “Before” and “After.” It allows the reader to become invested in the love between Ash and Poppy in the first part, before thrusting the reader along with Ash into the new role of reaper in the afterlife. And once the transition occurs, I loved the grief Ash experiences for her past life, even if it is a bit centered on the lost potential of her romance with Poppy. 

I really like the concept of the afterlife and the reapers. It’s fairly easy to follow, and the fact that the reader takes it all in with Ash helps with the learning curve. She spends time learning the rules, and I like how there is some setup with other people she helps, prior to encountering Poppy again. 

While this book is a love story, not a genre romance, and it doesn’t have a definitive happy ending, there’s definitely strong romantic elements here. And more open-minded readers may be open to the ending, which leaves things open to a possible reunion, even if it doesn’t ultimately happen on-page. 

I really loved this book, and am curious to read more from Tanya Byrne in the future. If you’re into love stories involving spirits and the afterlife and/or narratives with poignant musings on grief, I recommend checking this out! 

Author Bio

Tanya Byrne was born in London where she spent forty years before moving to Brighton with her dog Frida. After eight years at BBC Radio, she left to write her debut novel, HEART-SHAPED BRUISE, which was published by Headline in May 2012 and earned her a nomination for New Writer of the Year at the National Book Awards.

Since then, she has written four novels and has contributed to several short story anthologies including A CHANGE IS GONNA COME, which was named Sunday Times Children’s Book of the Week.

Her latest, AFTERLOVE, is out now. She is currently working with Two Rivers Media to adapt it for television.


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