The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle
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.~Goodreads
If you know me, you would know that I have a love/hate relationship with all of her books. My biggest complaint and one of the things I like about her books is that they all move very slowly. I like that it provokes so much thought and really feels like literature and a book worth keeping instead of a real quick romance that you’ll forget about in a few weeks. And when I picked up The Beginning of After I had heard that Jennifer Castle was similar to Sarah Dessen. So needless to say I was really excited.
Laurel just lost her mother, father, and brother due to a terrible accident in a car that their neighbor was driving. Laurel has to deal with living in a house that holds countless reminders of her family, a friend that she feels is drifting away, and interacting with the guilty man’s son. I don’t know about you but I think I would hole myself up in my room for all eternity and not come out till judgement day. But that's not what she does. Laurel being the strong, brave and normal-seeking girl she is, jumps back into her life days after this horrible tragedy. Laurel loves animals, and beneath the sad and thoughtful exterior you see a girl that just wants to be “cool” and have her crush notice her. I think this little tidbit lessened the book for me. I mean your family has died you have all these things going on and you still want to be noticed by the snobs and get a guys attention? It made her feel a little shallow to me.
Daniel the guilty man’s son, and Joe her crush both pull at Laurel and gives this book a bona fide love triangle. Daniel deals with his grief by running. His mother died in that same car crash and the impact put his father into a coma. Joe the awkward guy that draws superheroes notices Laurel for the first time after she starts school again. And don’t get me started with her best friend Meg. The whole situation seems doomed. Can a teenage girl-life long friend or not- deal with kind of change in Laurel’s life? Can Meg and Laurel get through their own problems to see the other one is hurting and needs a hand? This situation demonstrates a persons selfishness and how, even though they don’t see it, they can be so absorbed in their own troubles not to notice someone elses.
The Beginning of After is a study in grief and how life moves on. It showcases the most unlikely of romances without that being the sole purpose of the book. And I definitely recommend it to Sarah Dessen fans.