Author: Jennifer Castle
Published: September 6, 2011
Genre: YA, Contemporary
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.
Laurel's teenage life was forever changed when she learned that life and living can be changed in a single, fleeting instant. In that moment she goes from the ordinary girl-next-door to the girl who lost her family to a horrific accident caused by the town bad-boy's father. Laurel is forced to navigate her grief while balancing the life she once had, but it begins to slip through the cracks and as her friends drift away, she isn't sure who she can trust anymore. But there's David - David who is the bad boy...David who's father caused the death of her family...and David who understands her loss. Why does something so right have to feel so wrong?
I'll be honest. I'm going to throw it out there that I'm a bit tired of the whole death in teenage contemps thing, but I am pleased to see just how delicately The Beginning of After navigated the depths of such a painful and powerful issue. It would have been easy to become lost in the cliche of the story, but author Jennifer Castle created a touching cast of characters with Laurel and David in the forefront, giving the reader a firsthand glimpse at the depth of sorrow, the beauty of hope and the potential for love to spring from even the darkest, most painful depths of life. With a powerful voice and a rich, hopeful message, The Beginning of After is a story that truly steps out of the mold and into a new realm.
I think the true beauty of The Beginning of After was the believability of the characters and Laurel in particular. Watching how Laurel navigated the stages of grief in her own way was both harrowing and intriguing. In a sense, she pushed her grief aside and fixated herself on the intricacies besides the loss of her parents and brother, but in others, you saw her walls crumble just a little to see this hole of despair eating away at her. David was the perfect balance for Laurel. While she was a shy, somewhat ordinary teen, David was this rebellious character filled with angst and tension. Yet, their dual loss spun them in a web of grief together. The Beginning of After balanced a precarious relationship by building it slowly through their feelings, rather than some cliche and overdone physical attraction that usually kills the story. Rather than passion, we get comfort, and rather than a surface-level love, we get a soul-like spiritual connection between two vastly different but entirely charismatic characters. So, while the plot of The Beginning of After might have been the cliche I was anticipating, the characters made the story.
All in all, The Beginning of After was a powerful read that I truly believe anyone can and will appreciated. With a fresh voice and perspective, it's sure to carve itself into a nice niche in the YA market. I give it a 4.5 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to all fans of YA, as well as adult fiction, especially those who enjoy contemporary fiction.
I received this eARC free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.