The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle

Format: Kindle eARC
Published: September 6, 2011
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: YA, Contemporary

Anyone who’s had something truly crappy happen to them will tell you: It’s all about Before and After. What I’m talking about here is the ka-pow, shake-you-to-your-core-and-tur​n-your-bones-to-plastic kind of crappy. Sixteen-year-old Laurel’s world changes instantly when her parents and brother are killed in a terrible car accident. Behind the wheel is the father of her bad-boy neighbor, David Kaufman, whose mother is also killed. In the aftermath of the tragedy, Laurel navigates a new reality in which she and her best friend grow apart, boys may or may not be approaching her out of pity, overpowering memories lurk everywhere, and Mr. Kaufman is comatose but still very much alive. Through it all there is David, who swoops in and out of Laurel’s life and to whom she finds herself attracted against her better judgment. She will forever be connected to him by their mutual loss—a connection that will change them both in unexpected ways. Jennifer Castle’s debut novel is a heart-wrenching, surprisingly witty testament to how drastically life can change in the span of a single moment.

I would like to preface this review by saying my grandmother passed away suddenly less than two months ago, so when I started reading a book about loss, grief, and mourning, my emotions were still raw and very close to the surface, very simailar to that of the main character, Laurel.

The title of this book sums it up very well, The Beginning of After. When struck by death, life is divided into "Before" and "After". This book tells the story of teenage girl, Laurel, whose mother, father, and younger brother are killed in a car accident. From that point on, she has to begin the journey of "After".

I was so amazingly shocked at how much I could relate to Laurel's feelings of grief. The way the author described her emotions was like she had stepped inside my head and managed to make sense of everything I had been feeling and put it down onto paper. As the author told me, it is amazing how grief can be both personal and universal.

Adding to Laurel's world instantly changing, she is not only dealing with the loss of her family, but the fact that the car was being driven by her neighbor David's father, who is now comatose and mother was killed. They now share a deep bond over this tragedy, but Laurel is also developing an attraction to him that may run deeper than she feels comfortable with. This relationship drives Laurel to explore her feelings of what she wants for herself and possibly even her future.

This is a beautifully written book because it is a brutally honest look at the first year following the loss of family. Jennifer Castle shows the pain, anger, denial, and that one day, you will find that while life has changed in the worst of ways, you can find happiness again. I was enthralled with this book from the beginning and found it hard to believe it was a debut novel!!

Rate: 5/5


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