The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle

The Beginning of AfterThe Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle
Published by: HarperTeen on September 6, 2011
Genre: Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Pages: 432
Source: Gifted
Buy on AmazonBook Details
Rating: ★★★

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 »

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.

The Verdict


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  1. Haha apart from the txt spk (bleugh) this does sound really good. I’m sorry there isn’t a resolution regarding the accident, I hate when we’re left wondering but I’m intrigued to read this now. Great review Ashley, will be adding this to my TBR!

    Danielle recently posted: Review: Pivot Point by Kasie West
  2. I thought the same about this one! It was a good read but Laurel and David’s relationship was just really confusing. They had no definite stand and I was kinda frustrated about that. I really did like the aspect of the tragedy that happened to them though.

  3. I kinda like didn’t read your review that much since you know I kinda bought it to read. Haha. But I’m glad you enjoyed it even if you didn’t LOVE it!!! I’m sure it’s a beautiful review is always! I’ll be back to read it after I’ve read it. Which will be hopefully soon!

    <333 Inky

  4. The romance sounds odd, really, and not sure I would like it very much. Not being a fan of those hot and cold romances it sounds like I would feel the same towards this one. But even if the romance was the most epic ever, Text speak? NOooooooo!! I DNFed a book once when the narrator said LMAO. O_o No!

  5. Ah I’m glad that this one started out really strongly but then slowly kind of fizzled out. I know exactly what you mean by the text speak! The thing is most teenagers actually spell out their words and stuff and the few that don’t just use abbreviations like “brb” or “gtg” or just “u” or “ur” it annoys me so much, too! Since I can’t understand it half the time O_O The animal concept sounds so adorable, the way they wrote letters to each other, even if David was always absent and their relationship was kind of stagnant.

    Fantastic review <33

    Eileen @ ***Singing and Reading in the Rain*** recently posted: Tuney Tuesday: Primadonna by Marina and the Diamonds
  6. Wow, the premise of this novel certainly sounds powerful! Stories like this one always remind me how fleeting and finite life truly can be, and really make me appreciate all I have in my own life. That said, I’m not sure this would be a book I’d enjoy. While I love the sound of Laurel’s profession and her relationship with animals, I suspect I’d quickly tire of David’s behaviour and would grow frustrated when Laurel and David’s relationship failed to progress in any sort of meaningful way. The text speak would also drive me up the wall! (Glad I’m not the only one for whom this is a big turn-off!) While this novel sounds like it has potential, it seems as though it fell a little short of the mark, which is unfortunate.

  7. This sounds like a really interesting read, but the somewhat-romance-that-really-isn’t-one would really bug me while I was reading it. Although, the letter idea with the dog sounds so cute! And, text speak in books just seems wrong… Great review!

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