Release Date: September 6th, 2011
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
*I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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.
Okay, so here’s the deal. I think The Beginning of After is a totally polarizing book. I’ve been watching reviews and it’s really putting people on one side or the other. Either you love it or you hate it. And I can kind of see why.
The characters are completely flawed and not very likeable. Brooke is selfish and she does a couple of jerky things in the story that made me not really like her all that much. And there’s David. He’s even worse. I get that he lost his mom, but he abandons his dog at Brooke’s house and just leaves his dad in a coma in the hospital to travel around the country. Then he leads Brooke on and totally takes advantage of Nana’s kindness and nobody tells him he is being a butthead. He was a HUGE jerk. And yet, I felt the author didn’t feel that he was. That somehow all of his actions were vindicated by the losses he had suffered through. And that’s total crap. Just because you lost someone, that doesn’t give you a free pass to treat everybody else in your life like they are chopped liver. And anyone that has ever suffered a loss should know this. So I really thought the two of them were just frustrating as all get out.
Then there is this one part in the book toward the end where Brooke does something completely unforgivable that has to do with David’s dad. And apart from other characters being mad for a few minutes, she gets off completely scott-free with a lousy explanation from the author as to why. And that ticked me off too.
In spite of all this though, I really enjoyed what I was reading. I thought it was a great story about healing and slowly moving on with your life after a tragedy. I know a lot of readers didn’t feel connected to the characters and I can see why. I am an extremely emotional person, but I didn’t cry at any point during this book, and considering the subject matter, I should have. But I did relate to a lot of what went on, and I thought it was a pretty decent story. I really enjoyed the tone of the book and sometimes I think it’s okay to wrote a book with unlikeable characters. It’s not common in young adult literature, and I think maybe that’s why people got thrown off. It was different. I liked it.