The Beginning of After – Jennifer Castle

GENRE:  Young Adult – Fiction
FORM:  Book

SYNOPSIS (from Goodreads.com):  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.

REVIEW:  As expected, The Beginning of After has its tough moments. Those moments where you just want to put down the book and have a short cry. Laurel is having to cope with the loss of her mother, father and younger brother, and while she is not doing it alone, it is still a very lonely and personal process. She manages through it rather well, probably much better than I would have actually.

The book focuses a lot on how she feels about how others feel about her though. Yes, she is managing her grief, but she is also very wrapped up in what people are saying about her, and what the motivation of others is rather than just accepting their help, or politeness. But despite people talking about her and not knowing if people are being real or just acting out of pity, she sticks through it and deals with everything the best she can. Her life has been altered, and finding out how to live it in its new form is tricky.

The story is also about David, whose father was driving the car that ended up off the road, and who’s mother was also killed in the accident. Where Laurel stays at home and deals with the pain and the healing, David runs. He becomes as anonymous as he possibly can so he doesn’t have to deal with false niceties or pity. He also runs to forget his grief. The only connection to home he keeps for a while is to Masher, and to Laurel.

I did enjoy this book. While it was sad, it wasn’t overly difficult to read most of the time. I felt like it got a bit too long, and I’m sure there was a lot that could have been cut out and it still would have been a complete book. But the length also helped to bring home the point that healing from tragedy is a long, slow process.

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