Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle

Summary/Cover Image from Publisher's Website:

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.

Fans of emotionally true and heartfelt stories, such as Sarah Dessen's THE TRUTH ABOUT FOREVER and IF I STAY by Gayle Forman, will fall in love with Jennifer Castle’s incandescent debut novel...a heart wrenching, surprisingly witty testament to how drastically life can change in the span of a single moment.

Hopeful, beautifully written, and nothing short of spectacular, The Beginning of After wraps the reader in for a long and amazing journey full of laughs and tears and smiles as Laurel and David make their trip to the after from the beginning. I simply could not have asked for a better contemporary read and I am sure many will agree.

They say everything can change in one quick second, but Laurel never realized this until that fateful day when everything fell apart. Before that day, Laurel was the average girl: smart, shy, and pleasant. She had a picture perfect family life, a best friend who she could count on, and the promise of an amazing future. However, everything changes when a police offer arrives at the front door bringing with him sad news: Laurel’s parents and brothers have been involved in a car accident and are now dead. Filled with grief and anger, Laurel does not know what to do, or who to blame. Should it her neighbor Mr. Kaufman because he drove the car, or should it be herself for not being there to save the day? Either way, Laurel does know one thing; she should not be feeling strange and new things for David, the local bad boy and Mr. Kaufman’s son. Nevertheless, she cannot stop herself, because with David she can relate. He understands where she is coming from, and best of all, he is not tiptoeing around her like everyone else is. Though, are they meant to be, or this one big mess in the making? Moreover, will she ever be able to move on? Only time and more pages can tell in this fantastic story of grief, loss, and moving on.

To begin with, I loved the characters in this, especially Laurel and David. Charming and sweet, Laurel was relatable and likable from the start. There wasn’t a moment where I wasn’t cheering her on from the sidelines. However, what I liked best about her was the fact that I feel anyone would be able to resonate with her feelings over death and loss. David, on the other hand, was the perfect example of the “bad boy.” Misunderstood yet charismatic in his own right, David was the type of boy a reader cannot help but love. I particularly adored his relationship with Laurel, not only because of the way it was developed slowly (finally a YA relationship that takes time to develop!), but it was based on so much more than just attraction, instead feelings and actions played a big role, and I loved that. The side characters in this were also a breath of fresh air, as each one had their own distinctive personality that added an extra flavor to the story.

Moving on, while The Beginning of After basic premise is the basic death cliché, Jennifer Castle fully brought it alive once again and made it her own. From the plot lines, to the characters, and finally the writing, each played such a huge part in making this story simply fantastic! I particularly enjoyed seeing Laurel deal with day-to-day life such as her volunteer work and school because they added layers and charm. Best of all, I loved that The Beginning of After was so much more than just a “death” book, instead it was more about moving on and coming to peace with the past while keeping part of it close.

As mentioned before, Castle’s writing was also fabulous. She truly knows how to write an emotional read, which makes me truly think she’s going to be the next big gem in YA.

So, pick up some tissues and prepare for a long night, as Jennifer Castle’s spectacular debut is one you will not be able to put down once you start, not even for a second.

Grade: A+

The Beginning of After is now out!

Source: Author/Publicist- thanks Jennifer/HarperTeen!


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