Title: The Beginning of After
Author: Jennifer Castle
Publication Date: 9.6.2011
Summary (from Goodreads):
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.
I will begin by saying I typically need a good romance for me to enjoy a novel, and while The Beginning of After does have a thin ribbon of a love story, the real story is of Laurel. It’s watching a girl be smashed apart and then pieced back together. Jennifer Castle’s debut novel is thought-provoking and moving, and it’s impossible not to fall for Laurel.
Laurel is quite the average teenager (stressing about SATs and boys) until the night her father, mother, and brother are all killed in a horrific accident. In the weeks that follow, she keeps pushing her emotions deeper and deeper under until they surface at the most inconvenient of times and she breaks. Then begins the painstakingly grueling process of letting herself heal and figuring out how to live in a world that makes absolutely no sense.
The journey that Laurel embarks on is both heart wrenching and hope inspiring. There is a simple elegance to this story that rings true with everyone because this is something that happens in everyday life. The threat of a vampire attack is fairly non-existent in everyday life. The idea that your entire family could be torn from you in a single, horrific moment? That is a jarring reality that this novel forces you to confront and accept.
The Beginning of After is a book I had to digest slowly and in increments. Castle does such a realistic job of putting you in the moment with Laurel, that it becomes easy to share the burden of her pain on an emotional level. I found I needed to walk away from the book several times (often stopping in each room of my house to check on family members and reassure myself of their location) so that I could breathe. By the conclusion of the book, I saw Laurel’s hope shining like a beacon on the horizon.
**Thank you HarperTeen for providing me with an advanced copy of this novel**