July 19, 2011

The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle

Release Date: September 6, 2011
Publisher: Harper Teen
Pages: 432
Series: n/a
Review Source: Netgalley

Synopsis: (from Goodreads)
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.

My Thoughts:
First of all, I cannot believe this is a debut. The characters are so strong and the story was so beautiful and engaging. The book examines a lot of interesting issues such as the process of grief, big life changes, and what are our lives are “supposed” to be.

I absolutely adored the main character, Laurel. I found her voice to be so true! All the grief, humour, love, and questioning felt absolutely real. Even though ‘The Beginning of After’ is very different from ‘The Sky is Everywhere’ the two books share similar themes, and I think fans of either would enjoy the other (and I don’t make that comparison lightly!).

What makes this book so great is that it is about dealing with grief in a realistic way. Everyday life is still there when you’re going through horrible things, and Jennifer Castle shows this wonderfully. Castle brings in a lot of different aspects to the story, such as how Laurel deals back at school, her job at the animal clinic (loved the animal aspect!), and her relationship with her Nana.

The one thing I didn’t completely buy was Laurel and David’s relationship in a romantic sense. David was interesting and incredibly lovable, and I totally understood (and adored) their connection, but I would have liked to have seen some other indication of why they worked, beyond just understanding each other’s grief. However, this was the one (tiny) weak spot in an otherwise amazing book. This book features moments that will make your heart ache, but tons of lovely heartwarming ones as well. The ending was hopeful but realistic, reinforcing the idea that when bad things happen you can only try and move past them, making the best of things as you enter “the beginning of after”.

The Cover: I love the colouring so much, and even the way the title is put over top of the picture I think is gorgeous. The girl on the cover makes it a bit typical, but it's still a great cover overall.


Find The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle on Goodreads, Book Depository, & Amazon.ca


  1. This one sounds like it has really amazing characters which makes me want to add it to my list immediately. I think I'll have to be in the right mood for this one, but it's definitely something I want to read. Thanks for the review Ashley!

  2. Wow--a 4 1/2 star review? I passed this one up in NetGalley because I'm a little burned out on grief stories but your review has me perking back up. A great main character and a credible story sounds good to me! Thanks for a great review :)
    Mary @ Book Swarm

  3. This sounds really good. I loved The Sky is Everywhere so if it made you think of that at all, I should give this one a look. :)

  4. This isn't usually a genre I read but you've convinced me! Since I'm on a bit of a fantasy/sci fi hiatus i'll check this one out. Thanks!

  5. I'm really glad to read you liked this one and that the characters were so well fleshed out. Thanks for the wonderful review!

  6. Sounds like such a sad story and I don't know how Laurel and David would get together. It makes me want to read it more.

  7. Ooh, thanks for the rec! I loved If I Stay, and am intrigued by your review here. I thought I'd moved past my angst-angst-angst leanings in books, but lately they've been so good, I can't resist. Looks like I'm adding another book to my TBR pile. Thanks again!


  8. Yay! I'm so glad to hear you really enjoyed The Beginning of After!! I have so much cover love for this one too! :)


Thank you so much for taking the time to comment; I appreciate each one!


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