Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle

[My interview with Jennifer Castle]
The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle
Release Date: September 6, 2011
Format: Advance Reader Copy
Source: Publisher/NetGalley
Age Level: Young Adult
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Buy: Amazon

"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. (Amazon) 

Heart-breaking. Honest. Beautiful.

The Beginning of After follows Laurel’s journey of grief and learning to move on after losing her parents and brother in a tragic car wreck. I was gripped from page one. I lost my mother at the age of 16, and though my story is completely different, I could relate with a lot of the aspects of grief in this novel. The Beginning of After is possibly the best depiction of grief I’ve read in YA. I wish I had this book as a teenager.

I felt that Laurel’s emotions and actions were right-on. She moves through shock and denial to out-right anger and sadness. Jennifer Castle did an excellent job of capturing the intricate parts of grief… from the random details and images she remembers of her family and life before, to how her grief impacted her relationships. Also, how she didn’t want to be pitied, but at the same time feared not being pitied.

Laurel’s relationship with David was complicated and realistic in how it developed and changed over the years – from being childhood friends to not friends at all – and how they were brought together again by the tragedy. I absolutely LOVED Masher, David’s dog, and how he was such a source of comfort. Really, I appreciated every character in this novel, and felt they were all well written.

Though the story is sad, I felt a sense of hope at the end, and I’m still wondering about the characters! The Beginning of After is an emotional journey, and an excellent debut for Jennifer Castle.

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