The Beginning of After

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The Beginning of After
Publisher
Genre(s)
Age Range
12+
Release Date
September 06, 2011
ISBN
978-0061985799
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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.

Editor review

1 review
Beautiful debut!
Overall rating
 
5.0
Plot
 
5.0
Characters
 
5.0
Writing Style
 
5.0
A MUST read! This is a well written story about love, loss, the bonds of family, the journey of forgiveness and the discovery that life "after" tragedy is really how you choose to live it.

The first thing that caught my attention about this book was the beautiful cover. The basis of this story, the tragic loss Laurel and David (two teens) experience presumably as a result of David's father, would seem to be extremely sad and depressing but that wasn't the case. The author, Jennifer Castle, does a great job of allowing the reader to walk through the grief process right alongside Laurel so you feel the rawness of her emotions but she infuses it with humor and grace. When it seems Laurel's just beginning to handle things, something small like a picture frame, or the knife block in the kitchen conjures up a memory of her family (like how each member put the knives away differently) and your heart breaks for her all over again. You feel her frustration when she's at school and just wants to be a "normal" teenager but has to endure the whispers and rumors about the accident. And you want to scream right along with her "I won't break! Try me!" as everyone (teachers included) seems to handle her like she's as fragile as glass. You also can't help but laugh as she finds herself "trapped" in the car with her grandmother during what she refers to as a mortifying conversation. Who hasn't been there, right?

Despite the tragedy, Laurel does have a good support system like her best friend Meg and her Nana who comes to live with her after the accident. She's a good role model and even though Laurel, like most typical teens, doesn't always understand or see eye to eye with her, she does respect Nana. During one particularly difficult experience involving David, Nana gives Laurel some great advice, "If I can't change something, I don't waste energy on it." (That made me stop and think about all the energy I've wasted on stuff/people/things I can't change.) Nana is the one constant in Laurel's life now and mixes support with a little tough love when necessary. She also sets great examples of generosity, hospitality, selflessness and forgiveness for Laurel.

For some reason, when I read about David, I kept picturing the actor from "Modern Family", who plays, "Dylan". :) Anyway, David and Laurel were once childhood friends but all that changed once he hit middle school. Now they're part of very different crowds and barely speak unless forced too out of obligation when their families get together. (They appear to be the only 2 Jewish families on their block and celebrate the Holy Days together) He comes across selfish, only concerned about himself and this seems to escalate after the accident which at times, causes Laurel more frustration and pain. Your heart goes out to him though when you remember he's left to deal with his comatose father whose held responsible (by everyone) for the deaths of Laurel's family as well as his own mother. You also have more compassion for him later on in the book... He deals with his own pain the best way he knows how and that's to run.

Laurel and David are faced with the realization that there is life after tragedy and that their lives especially, will be forever intertwined. We see more of Laurel's struggle with this and how David fits into her life it but ultimately they both get to choose how that life "after" is lived.

*Potential Spoiler: One of the main issues this story deals with is alcohol...the adults consume it and at times the teens do too. I hope that readers, young & old will pay attention to the the smaller details regarding alcohol in this story (beyond the obvious that underage drinking is never OK) like you don't have to be legally drunk for something bad to happen. All it takes is one drink too many.
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User reviews

3 reviews
Overall rating
 
3.8
Plot
 
3.7(3)
Characters
 
3.7(3)
Writing Style
 
4.0(3)
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A heartbreaking, slow burning story
Overall rating
 
4.3
Plot
 
4.0
Characters
 
4.0
Writing Style
 
5.0
I would recommend The Beginning of After to those who recently lost someone dear. It was really a book of healing.

I have read reviews on this book and find people saying that nothing happens. It really is not a story with a lot going on. It is a story about growth, loss and life. The interactions between people and even how pets can help with loneliness. The human need to have something or someone to care for. Looking to others for strength and that sometimes moving on is a very slow process with baby steps.

A huge part of the story is also forgiveness. In situations like this that you want to blame others for what has happened. Even if others are responsible there is a degree of forgiveness that must be given to be able to move on. Those last two lines were great: That was Before. Now here we go into After.

Where If I Stay dealt with more of the emotional aspects of life after losing your family, The Beginning of After dealt with the emotion side, as well as the reality that the world goes on and you go with it. It's a strong, amazing novel, and I've very glad to have read it.
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Hobbitsies Reviews: Thoughtful, heartbreaking contemp
Overall rating
 
4.0
Plot
 
4.0
Characters
 
4.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
Ahh, The Beginning of After seriously made me tear up. I probably would have cried too, if I hadn’t read the entirety of it in very public places – between classes and before work. The Beginning of After such an intensely emotional book and I just felt like curling up under a blanket while reading it.

The The Beginning of After is a long book. It certainly has its slow parts. But I felt like, in order for Laurel to fully grieve, maybe there had to be a few slow parts and that they were necessary to the story/journey Jennifer Castle was trying to tell. Laurel’s family died. The Beginning of After is the story of how she deals with her grief and how she, basically, begins her after. It’s a very character driven contemporary, which are some of my favourite books to read.

I definitely believe everyone deals with grief in very different ways, and I love how Jennifer Castle represented that with not just Laurel, but David and Laurel’s Nana as well. And even though The Beginning of After focused on Laurel and her grief, we were able to witness David and Nana’s grief in other ways.

Also, I loved all the parts with animals.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Beginning of After. I know this review doesn’t really explain why, but I just did. I loved being with Laurel as she tried to figure out what to do next, how to put her life back together. The Beginning of After a wonderful contemporary with such an overwhelming sadness to it, and any fan of depressing (yet very hopeful) contemps should give The Beginning of After a try.

Review originally posted on my blog http://hobbitsies.net/2011/09/the-beginning-of-after-by-jennifer-castle/
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A Book of Decisions
“It seemed like the only way to keep breathing was to focus on the here and now, moment by moment, keeping my mind frozen cold to anything else.” ~ Laurel

I was instantly drawn to this book by the beautiful cover and blurb. I’m glad I chose to read this too, because I loved every page of it, and I kept looking down at the pages, hoping the story could be just a little longer. It was a heartfelt, emotional read that was nothing short of amazing.

After a car incident takes the lives of her family, Laurel’s life comes crashing down on her. The only survivor from the accident is the driver, who is also the father of her childhood friend David. While she struggles to keep her friends, and keep her grades high, she also helps out at an animal hospital, and takes in a couple of cats. David deals with grief differently, ditching school, and coming and going whenever he likes.

I like the romance in this book. It sat quietly in the background, only coming out when it was ready. It wasn’t rushed, which made it all the more believable and real.

Once I picked up this book, I couldn’t stop reading. This could happen to any of us. One minute, we could be laughing and talking with out families, only to have them taken away in the next. This book was about standing back up when life trips you over, and putting the pieces of your life back together again. I smiled; I cried; I grew extremely frustrated with David; I laughed. I absolutely loved this book, and will be looking out for more works by Jennifer Castle.
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The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle
Overall rating
 
3.0
Plot
 
3.0
Characters
 
3.0
Writing Style
 
3.0
This book was a story of Decisions (Good Decisions, Bad Decisions). Some turned out Right and some turned out Wrong. All in all it is a good book, even though Laurel's emotions were difficult to comprehend.
Here's the Blurb:
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.

I give this Book Three Stars.
Isn't the cover Fantastic?
"He moved his hands to either side of my face and I felt like I was Falling, not into a place or a hole, But into colors. Red and Orange and Purple. Deep and Rich."
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