Author: Jennifer Castle
Age Group: Young Adult
Category: Contemporary Romance
Release date: September 6th, 2011
Pages: 432 (ARC)
Rating: 5 out of 5
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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.
The Beginning of After tells the story of one of the strongest characters I've read about in contemporary YA yet. When Laurel decides to skip on getting ice cream with her family, there's no way she could have known that it would be the last time she'd ever see her parents and little brother alive. Her entire life quickly unravels and she has to rely on herself to be able to put it back together. With a little help from her grandmother, a few friends and even the boy next door, Laurel learns what it's like to live again.
Laurel is the ultimate good girl. She didn't disobey, she did whatever she could to please her parents and her number one concern was currently studying for her SATs. Her studying was cut short due to the constant knocking at her front door-- a police man coming to break the awful news. Her family was gone. She was now an orphan at 16 and although she feels empty and alone in the world, Laurel has so many more people looking out for her than she realizes.
Surprisingly, I don't get very emotional over many of the books I read but this one completely broke my heart. I always prefer raw, depressing stories with a hopeful ending and that is exactly what The Beginning of After turned out to be. Laurel had to take time to herself, heal at her own pace and deal with everything when they needed to be dealt with. She started off trying to push the feeling away, but it began to creep up on her at the worst possible moments. She then chose to focus on various things she was passionate about, such as art and working at a veterinary clinic. Eventually, she put effort in doing things to honor the family she lost, reminding herself that she'll never lose them, not really.
Overall, the story was so much more than I hoped it would be. I know that it will stick with me for a long time, as it will for anyone who has lost someone close to them. Although it's a very heavy subject, I found myself flipping through the pages faster than I normally do. This book will grab of you, shake you to your core and won't let go until the very end, when you're finally able to breathe again. Even then, you'll be left with a realization of how lucky you really are.