"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
August 27, 2013
After Hello: Clean and Unique Romance
by Erin Cowles

Summer may be coming to an end, but if you're living in denial of this fact and want a good beach read to transport you back to lazy days by the poolside, I recommend Lisa Mangum's After Hello.

Sara is visiting Manhattan with her father, who has turned her loose sightseeing while he sells his company. Sam lives in Manhattan with his brother, making a living tracking down unique and elusive items. After a chance meeting, fate throws the pair together in a common cause — locating the perfect work of art to appease Sam's celebrity boss and prevent her from firing Sam and his brother.

In the process of their 24-hour quest, Sara and Sam travel throughout Manhattan, up to The Cathedral of St. John's the Divine and down to Rockefeller Center. As their relationship develops, the protagonists help each other face parts of their lives where they have been wounded (as well as having done the wounding), and gain strength to heal and move forward.

After Hello is marketed as a romance, but it progresses very differently from the standard YA romance. The 24-hour time frame of the novel contributes to this. Rather than establishing attraction and then having the protagonists work through all the drama that keeps them apart, Mangum creates tension with the teens' gradual revelations about the pains in their pasts and the looming deadline for finding the appropriate work of art.

Sam and Sara's relationship builds at a slow simmer as they work together, which I found refreshing. Not all love stories are star-crossed and fiery, and I loved being pulled into one that mirrors many teens' reality.

Another refreshing difference from the typical YA romance is that this one is squeaky clean. There are no drunken revelations, no obsessing about the crush's sexual history, and no language you'd be afraid to use in front of your mother. Mangum proves attraction itself is an interesting enough topic to hold a reader's attention.

That said, After Hello isn't a romp through the meadows with bunny rabbits and wildflowers. Life has handed Sara and Sam some difficult cards, and I appreciate that Mangum found the balance between acknowledging the complex and difficult reality of teen life without rolling around in deviance.

This stand-alone novel won the 2012 Whitney Award for Young Adult General Novel, which is even more impressive considering that Mangum is writing outside of her usual fantasy genre. I appreciate her versatility, and I'm eager to see what she takes on next.

Read this book if...

  • You got a fancy camera for Christmas, but haven't gotten around to learning about apertures and shutter speeds. This book's appreciation of the artistry involved in creating a beautiful photo will make you start hitting up pinterest for tutorials.

  • You love the “adventure in Manhattan” element of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, but could do without the profanity and, um, seedier side of the New York club scene. This is a thoroughly daytime adventure.

  • You want proof you can write a compelling contemporary YA romance without obsessing about sex. :) It isn't the only thing teens think about, after all.

Target Audience: Girls, ages 12+.


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About Erin Cowles

Erin Cowles is a mother of two, living in the Washington D.C. suburbs. Before motherhood, she used her masters in library and information science in a law firm library. Now she uses it to find good books for her family at her local public library. She teaches part time for a SAT prep company, where she enjoys the challenge of making rather dull subject matter interesting and making college a reality for her students. During women's history month, she profiles Mormon women that inspire her at ldswomenshistory.blogspot.com.

Erin currently serves as a counselor in her ward's primary presidency.

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