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.
The Beginning Of After is probably one of the most heartbreaking books I've ever read, full of raw and powerful emotions that had me in uncontrollable tears more than a few times while reading.
Laurel has an extremely realistic life. Castle's depiction of the average teenage girl is pretty much spot on, but once the grieving began, the realism kind of cracked for me. Despite being beautifully written and very intense with the feelings, there was just something crucial missing. I would read these gut-wrenching scenes and where I'd be devastated and crying, Laurel would be calm and numb. I just didn't understand why Laurel wasn't acting the way that I was. Why wasn't this horrible tragedy affecting her as much as it was affecting me? That's what wasn't there; that connection, that personal mindset where all of Laurel's coldness and numbness comes from.
I've read a lot of reviews that comment on the drifting plot of this book, not appreciating that Laurel didn't have some kind of a grieving process or journey or something to keep us readers on our toes. For me, personally, I loved that she didn't. I felt like it was a lot more authentic with Laurel aimlessly trudging through the novel. It was really a reading experience to follow along with her as she tries to figure out everything day by day, not having any clue how to get over the wreckage that had just occured. I guess what I'm saying is that I don't need some set, complex plot. This is a story about getting over a tragedy and Jennifer Castle soared above my expectations.
Overall, The Beginning Of After is a heavyhearted, moving tale of loss and love and getting over the sorrow that comes with it. It tugged at my heartstrings, making me feel for these characters who were going through so much at such a young age. I definitely recommend it if you're in the mood for something intense and emotionally powerful!
Other reviews for The Beginning Of After:
Katie's Book Blog.
The Perpetual Page-Turner.