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Review: The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle

Saturday, July 23, 2011
5 Stars: An Incredible Read
Hardback: 432 Pages
Publication: September 6, 2011 by Harper Teen

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.

Fans of emotionally true and heartfelt stories, such as Sarah Dessen's THE TRUTH ABOUT FOREVER and IF I STAY by Gayle Forman, will fall in love with Jennifer Castle’s incandescent debut novel...a heart wrenching, surprisingly witty testament to how drastically life can change in the span of a single moment.

I don't want to imagine what it's like to lose your entire family in an accident. To see them laughing and joking around one day and have it taken away from me the next. It's impossible to imagine life without them. Laurel has to go through this last. Scariest of all, she's so relatable. I've stayed home many times (sometimes to study, sometimes to finish a book) while my family went out. Any one of those times, something could have happened, and I would have ended up in Laurel's position, which is one of the many reasons I was so fascinated with her story.

There are books that I rush through the first time I read them, eager to find out what happens next. There are books that I read at a slow pace, maybe a chapter or two a day over a wide time frame because I'm so (sometimes grossly) fascinated by them that I need time away from the book. Then there are books like The Beginning of After that I stayed up reading because I had to know what was going to happen to Laurel, but I didn't want to rush myself either.

Castle has chosen a difficult subject to write about. There is so much emotion wrought into The Beginning of After that there is a fine line between portraying Laurel's depression with accuracy and alienating the reader. Castle has succeeded in conveying Laurel's grief over her family members' deaths without losing the reader's interest.

Laurel is a good girl. She works hard at her studies and strives to meet her parents' expectations even after their death. It's all she has left besides her grandma, and it's perfectly understandable, so understandable that my heart ached along with Laurel's. I was so happy when Laurel found the Ashland animal hospital. It gives her a place where she could act normal; more than that, it gives her a place where she feels like she is doing something. She is helping animals. I love animals myself and can relate with how Masher and the cats play a role in cheering Laurel in her otherwise bleak life.

The romance was beautifully wrought as well. It took its time playing out: it didn't take place spontaneously; it was real. I understand Laurel's desire for the safe relationship she sees in Joe, the one that her best friend wants her to take. At the same time, we see Laurel's dangerous attraction to David, the one who knows what she's going through. The one that doesn't regard her as a superhero or someone to be pitied.

In The Beginning of After Jennifer Castle delivers a powerful, emotion-charged debut novel on a difficult topic, giving us insight into life after losing one's family. More than a story of loss, The Beginning of After is about picking up the pieces of your life after a tragedy; it is about friendship and love; it is about finding your place in life. I laughed and I cried. There was so much voice and character in this novel. I really enjoyed reading The Beginning of After, and I look forward to more works by Jennifer Castle!

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An ARC was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
20 comments on "Review: The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle"
  1. Thanks for the review. I'm really looking forward to reading this one after I'm done with all the blog tours that I'm participating in. I love your review. I think I'm up for an emotionally-charged book.

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  2. Thank you so much for sharing this! I hadn't heard about this book before now but it sounds amazing and heartbreaking. Going to add it to GoodReads right now!

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  3. This sounds like a great book! Awesome review! New follower :D

    Books Ahoy @ www.books-ahoy.blogspot.com

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  4. Oh WOW!

    This one sounds AWESOME!

    From volunteering with animals to the complicated relationship she must have with David, I know put this on my TBR.

    Thanks so much:))

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  5. I'm currently reading this book and so far I'm really liking it. I like the author's wording :)

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  6. when reading this review i'm listining No one - Alicia Keys, i'm not sure but i just get the connection this book with this song :)

    nice review, love your point of view of this book :)

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  7. I LOVE the sound of this one:) From the relatable characters to the animals and how she has to decide what's right for her despite what others think.

    Great review:)

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  8. This sounds like a great read. Thanks for sharing your review; I defintely plan to read this one now. I, too, have wondered what it would be like for my entire family to die in an accident. Thankfully, that has not happened! I like that Laurel is relatable and the romance is well developed. Nothing worse than insta-love.

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  9. THE BEGINNING OF AFTER looks like such an emotional read. I love books that I want to savor.

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  10. This book looks sort of heartbreaking! If that happened to me, I think I would be completely torn apart! I definitely want to give this a chance though. Books that tug at your heartstrings are the ones that stick with you the longest.

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    1. I agree. The books that tug at your heartstrings are the ones that stick with you the longest. I LOVE this book and will definitely be rereading it in the future.

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  11. Loving the sound of this book and the gorgeous cover! :)

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  12. Nice cover + emotional read = my cup of tea. I can't wait to read The Beginning of After. Thank you very much for the review!

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  13. I love books with good romances! I'm glad you liked this one since I am really looking forward to it :)

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  14. Thanks for the great review! I already had this on my tbr list, but I'm definitely going to have to read it for sure now : )

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  15. Thanks for the review! Hopefully I'll have this book soon! :)

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  16. I love the sound of this book since the first time I read the blurb on GR. I am glad you liked it.

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  17. Thanks for the helpful review :)! I have been wanting to read this book for a while now, and now that I have read your review I want to read it badly :D!

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  18. Great Review! I've been wanting to read this for a while, so thanks for the chance to win it :)

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