Title: The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle
Release Date: September 6th, 2011
Published by: HarperTeen
Source: Publisher (Thanks Olivia!)
Buy: Amazon | Book Depository
Summary (from Goodreads):
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.
A split second can change everything. One moment can alter your whole life. One decision can affect your future forever. For Laurel, that night she decided to stay home instead of going with her parents and her brother to get ice cream left her an orphan. David, their next door neighbor lost someone too. His mother died in the same accident and his dad, the one behind the wheel with Laurel's family, might never wake up. They both lost people they love, and even with that bitter, tragic connection between them, Laurel found herself falling for the one person she shouldn't. David.
So what happens next? How do you deal with a loss so devastating it shatters your world? How do you get on with your life, knowing that all your loved ones died and you're still here?
The Beginning of After is such a long book. Maybe it should be longer because some people take a whole lot more time to grieve, to accept, to heal. Each page of this book is a testament to Laurel's struggle to pick up the pieces of what was left of her life, to start anew, to get on living, even when the ones she loves aren't by her side anymore. It's a harrowing, excruciating, painful journey to "living".
Laurel's struggles were heartfelt and it goes straight to the bone. It was difficult, to say the least. Her path to healing wasn't easy, and I love how Jennifer Castle wrote her. Going through denial and to acceptance is never easy. Anyone who has lost someone can definitely relate to Laurel. What's there to live for when all the ones you love are dead? It was worthwhile reading Laurel transform from being the orphan trying to make sense of her life after the tragedy to someone who lives not just because it's for her family, but for herself as well, taking charge of her life and making it her own.
I'm sure Meg and Joe had their reasons why they don't like David, but I understood a bit why he's the way he is. I pity him because he never fully appreciated having a mother until she was gone, and he was torn whether to care for a father who made it a point to show him that he wasn't liked. The way David dealt with his loss was drastically different from Laurel's, but I guess grief changes people. It was a wake-up call for him, that it was time to grow up. Sometimes you have to get lost a couple of times before finally finding your way home, I think that's what best describes David and what he went through.
It's not that I'm saying that David's feelings for Laurel weren't genuine. It was probably there ever since they were little, when they were still friends and spends time together a lot. But grief and loss can bring about certain emotions they weren't aware of, and it created a strong bond between Laurel and David. They understood each other in a way no one else can, because they both lost someone, and they knew dealing with it was never easy. In moments of uncertainty they turn to each other, fought, yelled, even blamed each other. And even though it's confusing how that relationship formed at first, they somehow became each other's anchor to pull through one of the hardest phases of their life, and through each other's pain and suffering they just realized how much they mean to each other.
Masher is an adorable creature. He's the buffer between David and Laurel's grief. He also brought the two closer together in a lot of ways, connected David and Laurel in a more deeper level and most of all he made Laurel realize what she wants. Her brief stint with the animal hospital because of Masher made her realize that there are things to look forward to after her loss.
The Beginning of After not only tackles the pain of Laurel and David, but even those of people around them. Nana was such a strong person, and she knew Laurel needed her to get through the tragedy. But Nana had to grieve too because she lost a grandson and Laurel's parents. That's got to be tough. Laurel was lucky to have a grandmother who was there for her when she needed a family. The novel also shows that despite Laurel's loss, life goes on. And that friendships can endure even while facing such difficulties, like what Laurel and Meg got through. I'd probably go crazy if I don't have friends like Meg, or even those like Andie, though they were only there for Laurel briefly. Joe didn't stand a chance against David. There were a lot of what ifs and what could have been in this book, Joe's relationship with Laurel is one of them. If I had my say on this novel I'd probably say that he and Laurel could have worked, but Laurel will always be after someone who doesn't just adore her because she's amazing, but someone who can fight with her and still understood her in the end.
The Beginning of After is not an easy read. Laurel takes you into an emotional journey, of loss, mourning and love. There are so much painful and sad moments in this book you'd want to avoid, but like Laurel, you have to experience them all and come out stronger and complete in the end. I have to say that the pace was very lethargic, but I ignored that and focused on what was written instead, and I got sucked into the story before I knew it. Sad but hopeful, filled with powerful emotions and lessons in life that we sometimes overlook, Jennifer Castle's debut is just wonderful. I connected with the novel in such an unexpected way and I just love it, I had tears in my eyes after I finished reading.
Some people might not agree with me, but you have to give this book a chance. You never knew, you might like it like I did.
Content (plot, story flow, character):
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