Published by: HarperTeen on September 6, 2011
Genre: Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Young Adult
Buy the Book • 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.
Jennifer Castle’s debut novel is a heart-wrenching, surprisingly witty testament to how drastically life can change in the span of a single moment.
The Beginning of After started out pretty strong for me. I immediately liked Laurel’s character. She had a fun personality and a unique voice. But as the book went on, I realized that things I expected to happen would never happen, and the book fizzled out as a result.
As expected, The Beginning of After is freaking devastating. A teenager loses her entire family in one, single, freak accident. This was one of those things that I could not stop thinking about. It’s so sad and it makes you think about all the “what if’s”.
I’ve found that letting something stay broken for a little while helps me understand it. Page 332
One of my favourite parts of The Beginning of After had to do with animals. Laurel gets involved at a veterinary office and I loved reading about the animals! And even better, she starts taking care of David’s dog and the dog is what helps bridge the gap between Laurel and David. When the dog was with David, Laurel would write letters to David but since she was too shy or nervous to talk to David directly, she’d actually write the letters to the dog. Then when the dog was staying with Laurel, vice versa. It was soooo cute!!
But as I said, this book certainly wasn’t perfect, and as it went on, more things started to bother me.
I think the biggest problem with The Beginning of After was Laurel and David’s relationship. I kept expecting something to happen there but nothing ever did. The synopsis doesn’t lie when it says, “David [..] swoops in and out of Laurel’s life.” It was a bit like whiplash. One minute David is there, he and Laurel kiss, there’s something clearly between them, then he disappears for weeks or even months. Then he comes back and it happens all over again. It was like he’d show up out of nowhere, throw her a bone, then disappear, then come back and throw her another bone. But ultimately, nothing ever happened between Laurel and David. They were so in and out of each others’ lives that I don’t even know what to call their relationship.. they weren’t dating.. they were sort of friends.. but that’s just it: sort of friends.
Also, I was bummed that we got very little closure with the accident. We know that Laurel’s family died in a car accident, but no one knows exactly what happened. View Spoiler » [There’s speculation that it was David’s dad’s fault because his blood alcohol level was “borderline”… but then there’s speculation that there was another car involved. But it’s not clear if it was really David’s dad’s fault, or if his BAC had nothing to do with it and it was totally another driver’s fault. I was upset that we never got this question answered. It nagged at me for the whole book and I kept hanging on, thinking that surely we’d get closure at the end… but we never did. « Hide Spoiler]
On another note, The Beginning of After has some of the most painful, atrocious “text speak” I’ve ever seen. One of my pet peeves is text speak in books. Are there no characters in books that can type on a phone normally? But these in particular seriously made me cringe; they’re some of the worst I’ve seen in YA:
k, jst tel me whr d scret headquarters r
I find it hliarious (yet painful) that she could write out the word HEADQUARTERS but had to pointlessly abbreviate all the small words.
sry i mizd u at d dance, hope ur ok
city 2mrw? goin sir craZ alrdy.
Although annoyances popped up towards the end, I mostly did enjoy The Beginning of After. It wasn’t the most interesting or intense book plot-wise, but some inexplicable factor pulled me in and made me want to keep reading. I’m mostly just disappointed that Laurel and David didn’t have a stronger/more interesting relationship.