The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle
Published: September 6, 2011 by HarperTeen
Get the book: Amazon
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.
Design – Erin Fitzsimmons Photo – Monika Stojak Rating – 2/5
I’m not fond of this cover at all, mainly because it’s just not memorable among all the other girl-on-a-cover books in YA right now. It’s just bland to me and doesn’t have anything to do with the content of the book. The title just kind of blends into the picture, especially with the relatively thin font used. Also, what the heck is going on with all the lens flare? Is this Star Trek? (I am, however, really into most of the other YA covers on the designer’s website, linked above)
This was a good book, with elements that I really liked, and not many things that bothered me. The way time passed in this book was the only huge thing I thought was holding it back. There’s a lot of ‘after’ and about 20 pages of ‘before.’ Yes, grief can make years feel like days, but I just thought that covering so much time didn’t really work well in this story.
- therapy – I really liked that we got to see the sessions with Laurel’s grief counselor, Suzie. At 1st Suzie seems a little pushy, but she’s helpful once Laurel gives her a chance. Therapy is something that’s still thought of as something that’s just for ‘crazy’ people. But counseling can help with a lot of things, and the way it was portrayed was realistic. It’s mostly talking – sometimes it feels helpful and sometimes it feels like a waste of time – and what you get out of it depends a lot on you.
- Nana – Laurel’s grandma was great. She uprooted her life to be with her only remaining family, and she tries to be strong for Laurel while dealing with her own grief. You can really tell that she treasures being with her granddaughter even more because of what happened. She doesn’t quite know how to handle Laurel’s moods – from depression and staying in bed all day, to determined and going to school – but she makes sure Laurel eats and has someone to talk to.
- Laurel’s job – When Laurel got a job at the animal hospital it felt like her 1st step back to a ‘normal’ life. Being able to help animals and rescue strays made Laurel see life in a more positive light. It was also great for her to be in an environment where she didn’t worry about who was genuinely nice to her and who was nice to her out of pity. It was her own form of escaping from the scrutiny of people she knew.
- Masher – David’s dog was a great way to tie all of the different parts of Laurel’s life together. She let herself care for another living creature and he gave her a reason to get out of bed most days. He also led to her new job, and provided a means of communication between Laurel and David. I loved how Laurel addressed her emails to Masher, while David did the same with his postcards. Masher gave them something to talk about when they weren’t sure what to say or how to approach each other.
- Eve’s attitude shift – Eve, Laurel’s coworker at the animal hospital, has strong opinions about everything – especially people who abandon animals. She is her normal, bossy self to Laurel…right up until she finds out about the accident. Eve, who has made such a huge showing of her opinions of those who abandon animals, completely abandons her friend. No more sharing a lunch break or getting to know Laurel better. It’s completely understandable to feel awkward and unsure after a friend suffers a loss like Laurel did – but that doesn’t mean you should ditch them. It’s ok if you’re uncomfortable – just be there. There was no reason for Eve to stop being friends with Laurel – it just made it seem like she thought Laurel had done something wrong or offended her and was undeserving of friendship. It’s as if Eve was just erased to make room for more boy-centered events in the story.
- Joe – Sigh. While I can understand Joe’s explanations – that the accident made him realize that life is short and he should just ask Laurel out already – I was suspicious of him for the entirety of the book. Laurel was always wondering if he liked her or just felt sorry for her. I mean, come on – really bad timing on that one. But even after he asked her out, Joe just kinda cut and ran whenever Laurel had an emotional breakdown, and it felt like she was doing all the work on reconnecting with him, as if he didn’t actually want a relationship. It was so awkward to read scenes with him in them because he was incapable of talking to Laurel like a real human being.
- David leaving – I got so frustrated when David kept leaving and showing up unannounced. He was running away from his emotions, which makes sense for him as a character, but my patience is limited and I was so proud of Laurel when she finally got sick of it. If someone leaves twice it’s mysterious, but leaving constantly is just ridiculous. It made me think that the author either didn’t know what to do with David, or just wanted to build up a love triangle – which was simply easier when he wasn’t around. David was 2 extremes – sleeping at the hospital to be with his dad, or across the country with no way to receive updates on his father’s condition.
- time span – I was shocked by how soon the accident happened in the book. I started reading and then BAM these characters I just met were gone. The abruptness made it harder to feel Laurel’s emotions, except maybe shock. How much can you miss characters you’ve known for less than a chapter? I wish there had been more of a ‘before’ period so we could get to know Laurel’s family before the accident. There are a lot of details and memories in the book that helped shape those characters, but this is all after they’re gone. The book covers more than a year, which is a long time for your average YA book, and made me feel like the ‘before’ period could have definitely been longer if ‘after’ wasn’t quite so long. Plus things got a little repetitive – David leaves, David returns, Laurel wonders if Joe likes her, etc.
- “It’s okay,” I said. “They were just being nice.” At least, I think that’s what it was. If Andie Stokes and Hannah Lindstrom being nice felt like being run over by a steamroller and thinking you should be grateful, then yeah, that was it for sure. – Laurel pg. 39
- When I’d brought him into the room the night before to show him what I’d been up to, he’d just smiled, satisfied and not surprised. Like he expected there to be homeless cats, like there couldn’t possibly be anything else that made sense. Unlike Nana and Meg, he’d had no questions. He just like it. – Laurel + David pg. 258
Acquired: bought (ebook)