The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I received this book from Net Galley for review purposes. This does not affect my review in any way.
The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle is a heart-wrenching story about one girl’s discovery of love and loss. As a teenager, the main things Laurel has to think about are studying for the SATs and deciding what colleges to apply for. She isn’t supposed to have to think about how to survive after her parents and little brother are killed in a tragic car accident. How was she to know that studying for a French test instead of going for ice cream with her family and neighbors would change her life forever?
I really enjoyed reading this book. From the very beginning I was caught up in the story and wanting to know what would happen next with Laurel. Her character is easy to sympathize with; I cannot imagine what it would be like to be her age and losing your family, while still continuing to have to go on with regular life, such as going to school and keeping up with friends. I found Laurel to be quite strong though, and maybe unrealistically so. I don’t know many people who could go through what she did and take the SAT’s two weeks later and ace them! Of course, people handle things differently, and that was her way of dealing with the situation. Yes, she still grieves over what happens, but in order to survive she continues to do things that she had planned. Laurel knew that her mom and dad would have wanted her to take the test, go to prom, apply for college, etc. As the story goes on, though, Laurel realizes that she hasn’t been paying as much attention to her surroundings as she thought. Things are going on in her best friend’s life that, under normal circumstances, Laurel might have realized. As it was, she was so focused on her own grief that she didn’t realize that things were happening all around her that she was unaware of.
I was glad that this story was not simply about Laurel’s grief, as that could easily become a very depressing novel. Instead, Laurel begins to discover that even after going through extraordinary loss, there are also chances for blossoming relationships to occur as well. While she isn’t sure that her relationship with Joe wouldn’t have normally occurred if it wasn’t for sympathy, it is still an opportunity for Laurel to “grow up” and almost be like a normal teenager. Her relationship with David, on the other hand, was very interesting to read about. As it was David’s father who was responsible for the car accident that killed her family, Laurel at first wants to blame David as well. She understands that she is not the only one hurting though; David’s mother was killed in the accident as well. Theirs is not a usual relationship. Instead, David comes in and out of Laurel’s life as he tries to deal with his grief in a different manner - by running away and trying to escape his memories.
The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle was a book that kept my attention from beginning to end and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I felt for the main characters, and even the supplemental ones, and was happy with the way things ended up for them. This was a nice change from the usual books that I read, and I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a pleasant, quick read.
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