The Beginning of After
Written by: Jennifer Castle
Released: September 6, 2011 by HarperTeen
Summary: 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-turn-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.
There are a lot of comparisons online between this novel and If I Stay by Gayle Forman and I can see where, at a very basic level, the comparison is warranted – Girl loses younger brother and parents in car accident. Grandparent(s) step(s) in and becomes guardian until girl leaves for school.
But that’s pretty much where any comparison stops.
With this novel the reader is able to really see the raw reality that some people face when hit with such a tragedy. I loved how completely believable Laurel’s reactions were and how the reader was taken through how she dealt with her grief and lived her life after everything that happens. The emotional spectrum was well-covered and I never felt as though the flow of the novel was forced in that respect.
The whole point (I believe) of this novel was how after these huge, horrific events life still continues on even if we don’t want it to. It shows just how important it is to continue on with life all while keeping your loved ones in your heart because life is precious.
Laurel was a brilliant character and she wasn’t written so that she was the only character in the novel who had more than one side. I loved how the supporting characters had dimension to them and were actually well-rounded. I loved David and his tortured existence and I loved how he was portrayed as this horrible guy in the beginning and then your opinion of him starts to change as you learn more about him.
I feel as though this is the sort of novel that I can’t really fully express in words how amazing it was. This is a phenomenal debut and I can’t wait to read more from Castle. I’m giving this novel an 8.5/10.
My thanks to HarperTeen and NetGalley for allowing me to read an advanced copy of this novel.