The Beginning of After

( 107 )

Overview

The Beginning of After is a story of hope and healing from Jennifer Castle, a powerful new voice in teen fiction.

When Laurel’s family dies in a horrific car accident, she struggles to put her life back together. She is now connected to David Kaufman, who lives down the block, and who lost his mother in the same crash. Both of their lives change—but not in the ways that they thought…

Castle blends tragedy with romance, teen angst, and wit in ...

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The Beginning of After

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Overview

The Beginning of After is a story of hope and healing from Jennifer Castle, a powerful new voice in teen fiction.

When Laurel’s family dies in a horrific car accident, she struggles to put her life back together. She is now connected to David Kaufman, who lives down the block, and who lost his mother in the same crash. Both of their lives change—but not in the ways that they thought…

Castle blends tragedy with romance, teen angst, and wit in The Beginning of After, a bittersweet, powerful debut novel that stands as a testament to how people can survive the unthinkable.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
After Gayle Forman’s acclaimed If I Stay, books tackling the same topic—a girl surviving the death of her parents and brother in a car crash—face inevitable comparisons. And although there’s certainly room for more stories with this premise, Castle’s debut, while affecting, comes up short. Sixteen-year-old Laurel reluctantly goes to Passover dinner with her family and their neighbors, the Kaufmans, whose son, David, is an estranged childhood friend. After dinner, everyone except Laurel and David goes out for ice cream; only David’s father survives the subsequent accident, and he is left in a coma. While Laurel’s journey to recovery and her blossoming romance with David are compelling reasons to keep reading, the story never delivers the raw emotional truths expected. Laurel’s reactions to the accident get lost among other mini-dramas that pop up along the way, and the blunt descriptions of her feelings (as well as how early in the book the accident takes place, before the characters are really established) render her grief flat and generic. Too little “before” makes the “after” less wrenching. Ages 12–up. (Sept.)
VOYA - Debbie Wenk
A car accident during an impromptu outing for dessert leaves two teenagers' worlds forever altered. Lauren and David had each wriggled out of the trip. The accident claims the lives of Lauren's parents and brother, and David's mother. The driver, David's father, is left in a coma with little chance of recovery. Once close as children, the teens had grown apart and the relationship is further strained by Lauren's anger at David's father for allegedly causing the accident. Both teens suffer survivor's guilt—each thinking that had they gone, the accident would not have happened. The aftermath finds Lauren wrestling with her grief as well as the interest people now take in her: the question, "How are you doing?" becomes an irritant to her. David is the only person who has any understanding of how she is feeling and the two have fleeting moments of companionship. The reader will find themselves as confused by David as Lauren; he is by turns surly, understanding, and perceptive. It is fascinating to watch these two young people try to make sense of their losses and struggle to figure out how to move on. Two other characters are thrown into the mix, Lauren's best friend , Meg, and Joe—a guy who only gets the nerve to ask out Lauren after the death of her family. Meg's family drama seems like an afterthought, but the friends' relationship rings true. While the ending is a bit predictable, the journey offers a complex look at the aftermath of a tragedy. Reviewer: Debbie Wenk
School Library Journal
Gr 7–10—Laurel is home doing her French homework while her parents and brother go out for dessert with the neighbors. A car accident kills everyone except the driver, her neighbor. Laurel's grieving is complicated by not knowing if the accident was the driver's fault (he had been drinking), and by a strained and complicated relationship with David, his son, who was not in the car either. With his mother dead and his father in a coma, David runs away and Laurel is left caring for his dog. Her grandmother moves in, and the story follows Laurel as she makes her way through senior year. Castle has created a strong and independent girl. Laurel struggles through a crisis even as she deals with more-typical teen problems. Two boys are love interests, but they are never Laurel's sole focus. She has her art; her college applications; a new job; and, most of all, her grief to deal with. Castle gives her a solid support system-a loving grandmother; an understanding guidance counselor; a sweet best friend; and a stereotypical, but well-intentioned, therapist. Perhaps all this support is why she copes so well. In fact, Laurel copes almost unbelievably well, breaking down and crying only a time or two throughout the entire 400 pages. The pace is slow, but the detailed writing and smart, realistically cool characters will be appealing to many girls. Offer this to teens who are waiting for the next Sarah Dessen book.—Geri Diorio, Ridgefield Library, CT
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061985799
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/6/2011
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 318,561
  • Age range: 13 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: 800L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Jennifer Castle's first novel, The Beginning of After, was named an American Library Association Best Fiction for Young Adults selection and a Chicago Public Library "Best of the Best" Book. She wrote many unproduced movie and TV scripts before returning to her first love, fiction . . . but she's still hooked on film and the way we can find and tell our stories with images. She lives with her family in New York's Hudson Valley.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 107 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(56)

4 Star

(27)

3 Star

(15)

2 Star

(4)

1 Star

(5)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 108 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2012

    Love it.

    When im reading it I picture me being Laurel which makes me more sad because I put myself in her shoes. Its a touching story and I cant put the book down. Occasionally i find myself reading random pages near the end bc im not pacient enough to wait for all the good stuff in the end. Haha. Love this book and i love the cover<3 Buy the book!! It has some romance.. like cute scenes with Joe.. at the end she and David do some stuff.. haha its a great sad life changing book.

    15 out of 21 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 4, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Books to the Sky Reviews: A tear jerker!

    The most important thing to know about this book: HAVE TISSUES READY!

    Seriously, some parts of this book I was crying so hard I could barely see the words (I'm really glad I was home alone when I read this, otherwise my husband would have wondered why I was bawling in front of my ereader).

    The way Laurel's grief is written, so resonated with me and brought me back to when I was going through all the grieving over losing my grandmother. It's so real and so raw and I appreciated that the author kept it that way throughout the course of the book.

    It's true that when someone passes that it feels like life stops, which is how Laurel feels. She struggles with the concept that even though people die, life still moves forward.

    I felt like I really connected with Laurel through this story, which is why I cried so hard. She's young and having to deal with something no one should have to go through.

    11 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2012

    Loved it!

    One of those books you can truly lose yourself in! Loved the characters. The emotion was very raw and real.

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2013

    Realistic, a full tissue box needed

    This book was very realistic. It was also extremly sad. I only had two complaints with it, the main character was extremly intelligent as are ALL the heroines in this type of book. Average girls have bad things happen to them also and second, the exact cause of the accident is left up in the air. I could not quit reading this book. I had to know how it ended. It took me all night to finish it. It is about 400 pages long and is well edited. No sex, violence other than a car accident or cursing. There is a lot of confusion about growing up and making choices during times of extreme hardship. I usually avoid this type of pathos like the plague. I like to feel good after reading a book. This book is about a young Jewish girl losing her family in a car accident. For readers 14 and up.

    AD

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 9, 2013

    Full review on My Blogger Blog: Lisleslivres The only thing I c

    Full review on My Blogger Blog: Lisleslivres

    The only thing I can remember about this book is its gorgeous cover and it being really boring and laborious to finish.




    My friend calls me a &quot;sap&quot; because I love sappy romances. I was expecting this one to be a good rom dram, but David left for a majority of the book and comes back for the end. I couldn't get attached to him, and he is supposed to be a main character. 
    You know those characters that you know have had rough pasts, but still manage to have a little sparkle despite their troubles? I didn't think that either Laurel or David had that in them.




    Would I recommend this to a friend? Buddy, don't waste your time on this one. When the plot has been done before, the characters need to stay with the reader. Before looking at the summary to do this review, I couldn't even remember these characters' names

    3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2012

    Good!

    This was a great, moving story that can truly mean a lot to anyone who has suffered loss in their life. It's a little slow at the end, but it is an amazing book. Laurel is just so strong and inspiring. I reccommend this to anyone. Especially if you're a fan of Sarah Dessen books, you'll love this.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 4, 2013

    Unrealistic and Superficial.  ~~ This book is supposed to be abo

    Unrealistic and Superficial. 
    ~~
    This book is supposed to be about the aftermath of a tragic accident that kills Laurel's entire immediate family. That is not what this book is about., and for that reason,I did not like this book. 
    For me, this book is just unrealistic. When the cops go to tell her her parents and brother are killed, her response is -What do i do know?- . If you find that a realistic response than by all means this book might just be for you. This book is completely and only about prom and boys and being seniors and best friends and popular girls.The book hardly dwells on Laurel's emotions or the accident AT ALL. There is the random
    therapy session, the random thought, but honestly, this book just makes no sense.  For me, I wanted to read a deep and compelling novel about loss and heartbreak, and this book is anything but deep. So if you are all up for reading about Laure's high school experience with her trying to fit in with popular girls and crushing on two boys (who both lack personality and charm btw)  then you might like this book. I didn't one bit.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2013

    Great

    I loved the book it was amazing. Couldn't put it down.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2013

    Ey

    Ho

    2 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 7, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Just the flap copy for this book sends chills up my spine. I wan

    Just the flap copy for this book sends chills up my spine. I want to believe that this story is all fiction, but I know better, there are kernels of horrific truth woven between the pages. Things like this and worse happen in life and I find that I'm drawn to these stories because they are the safest place that I can dance with my fears.

    THE BEGINNING OF AFTER is a lighter, dark book and I mean this as a compliment. The death of a family is not an easy subject to tackle, but Castle does it with honesty and optimism. Here are the words that I would use to describe this story verses what I often feel when I read darker, edgier themes.

    TBoA has...
    responsibility instead of blame
    survivors instead of victims
    consequences instead of carnage
    depth instead of hype

    Despite this, in-your-face topic, TBoA is a quiet book, where characters don't grow with a twisting and turning plot line--they develop and change at a realistic pace. They don't always make good decisions, but they never make &quot;wrong&quot; ones, because you have the time to deeply know what they are feeling and where they are coming from. And the ending was perfect, because it wasn't too perfect, making it just right.

    I loved THE BEGINNING OF AFTER and I can't wait to read Castle's next book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 11, 2011

    Sweet & Realistic Contemporary

    Laurel's teenage life was forever changed when she learned that life and living can be changed in a single, fleeting instant. In that moment she goes from the ordinary girl-next-door to the girl who lost her family to a horrific accident caused by the town bad-boy's father. Laurel is forced to navigate her grief while balancing the life she once had, but it begins to slip through the cracks and as her friends drift away, she isn't sure who she can trust anymore. But there's David - David who is the bad boy...David who's father caused the death of her family...and David who understands her loss. Why does something so right have to feel so wrong?

    I'll be honest. I'm going to throw it out there that I'm a bit tired of the whole death in teenage contemps thing, but I am pleased to see just how delicately The Beginning of After navigated the depths of such a painful and powerful issue. It would have been easy to become lost in the cliche of the story, but author Jennifer Castle created a touching cast of characters with Laurel and David in the forefront, giving the reader a firsthand glimpse at the depth of sorrow, the beauty of hope and the potential for love to spring from even the darkest, most painful depths of life. With a powerful voice and a rich, hopeful message, The Beginning of After is a story that truly steps out of the mold and into a new realm.

    I think the true beauty of The Beginning of After was the believability of the characters and Laurel in particular. Watching how Laurel navigated the stages of grief in her own way was both harrowing and intriguing. In a sense, she pushed her grief aside and fixated herself on the intricacies besides the loss of her parents and brother, but in others, you saw her walls crumble just a little to see this hole of despair eating away at her. David was the perfect balance for Laurel. While she was a shy, somewhat ordinary teen, David was this rebellious character filled with angst and tension. Yet, their dual loss spun them in a web of grief together. The Beginning of After balanced a precarious relationship by building it slowly through their feelings, rather than some cliche and overdone physical attraction that usually kills the story. Rather than passion, we get comfort, and rather than a surface-level love, we get a soul-like spiritual connection between two vastly different but entirely charismatic characters. So, while the plot of The Beginning of After might have been the cliche I was anticipating, the characters made the story.

    All in all, The Beginning of After was a powerful read that I truly believe anyone can and will appreciated. With a fresh voice and perspective, it's sure to carve itself into a nice niche in the YA market. I give it a 4.5 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to all fans of YA, as well as adult fiction, especially those who enjoy contemporary fiction.

    I received this eARC free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 25, 2014

    Loved it.

    But was really sad when it ended. I hope there will be a part 2 to this series with this couple.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2014

    Relate so much to this book

    Loved it. I felt like the book related so much to what I went through and how I felt. The thoughts of the main charater were right on. I realized I wasn't the only one that had those thoughts. The book brought me to tears many times.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2014

    Can you imagine losing your whole family in one day? For the mai

    Can you imagine losing your whole family in one day? For the main character, Laurel, that’s reality. Laurel is a 16 year old girl that is a junior. She is always studying for the SATs because at the time, getting into a good collage is her only priority. Her best friend is Meg, and they do everything together. Most of the story takes place at her house, school, and Ashland Animal Hospital. One afternoon, Laurel and her family went to their neighbors, the Kaufhmans, for dinner. After they had dinner everyone except Laurel and David went out to get desert. On the way there, they got in a car accident. Mr. Kaufhman was the only one who survived. Laurel losing her family isn’t her only problem; she still has to deal with all the stares and whispers about her when she goes into public. Also, she still has to go back to school. At school she has to deal with prom, SATs, and drama. Her crush, Joe, asks her to prom. They have a perfect relationship until David comes into the picture. Soon she and David get close, very close. They help each other through life after they each lost someone. Then, she and Joe start to grow apart. Laurel loves Joe, but she starts to like David. So she has to pick between Joe and David.
    I would really recommend this book to teens. I loved this book because it is very exiting when she has to pick between Joe and David. Also, I like it because there is a great love story between her and Joe. This book is amazing because it teaches you how precious life is and how at any moment you could lose it. I highly recommend this book to everyone, especially teens.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2014

    It is an amazing book

    I am reading it again cause it is that kind of good book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2014

    I just started reading this book and it is pretty good so far. B

    I just started reading this book and it is pretty good so far. But, this book is really sad how her parents and her brother died in a car accident.
    I think its sad what Laurel is going through right now and this book is really good. It is also emotional for some readers in some parts of the book.
    I think this book is wonderful so far and i am totally continuing to read this book.   

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2013

    G

    Ughhhhhh its a horrible book im warning youuuu and its a waste of money!!!!!!
    Hollywood status

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  • Posted November 27, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Laurel and her neighbour David are connected by the same tragic

    Laurel and her neighbour David are connected by the same tragic fate. She lost her parents and brother in a car crash. David lost his mother in the same accident, his father lives and is comatose, but he is the one who caused it. The moment their families are broken apart separates the before from the after.
    Laurel and David are both very young when they lose their families. Imagine the sadness and loss they are burdened with now. THE BEGINNING OF AFTER is about the person you were in a past life and the person you can become in the future. What does it take for your life to change radically?
    Jennifer Castle drew a realistic and touching portrait of the different ways to cope with your loss and the different ways of grieving. THE BEGINNING OF AFTER had me crying after only a few pages into the story and I felt just as affected as Laurel learning about her parents' death.
    Laurel and David are distancing themselves from each other, searching the other's company, grieving, remembering, hurting, learning to love again together. Their love story is a product of their mutual grieving process and can be described as impulsive, intuitive and rather subtle.


    4/5 **** THE BEGINNING OF AFTER – This pensive portrait of teenagers grieving the death of their own families will take you on a journey through a wide spectrum of emotions.

    THE BEGINNING OF AFTER is a quiet and raw portrait of grieving and learning to live again. It realistically pictures how one single moment can affect people in many different ways. Jennifer Castle's writing is hopeful and promising and I'll make sure to pick up a copy of her next book, YOU LOOK DIFFERENT IN REAL LIFE, soon.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2013

    Although this story was a great, leisure read, it was not quite

    Although this story was a great, leisure read, it was not quite what I was expecting. Laurel's situation is one full of challenges and struggles, so it is only natural that you would expect to read a story full of raw emotion. Unfortunately, I never felt those emotions while reading the book. Even though Jennifer Castle touched on Laurel's emotions in some of the chapters, I never got a real sense of the true internal struggles she was dealing with after losing her family. The story focused more on her relationships and college than it did on her grieving process. With that said, I loved the characters in the story! I see many qualities in Laurel that I also see in myself. I felt that I could easily relate to some of the struggles and stress she was having about school and the SATs. David's character was also a great addition to the story. He is first described as the typical 'bad boy&quot; that lives next-door, but when you get further into the book, you realize that he is much more than that; his bold and fearless attitude about life is what helps Laurel get trough her toughest times. Overall, I give this book three out of five stars because it was a great book to read with fascinating characters, but I wish it would have dug deeper into the emotions of Laurel and her grieving process. 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2013

    Dissapointing.

    I was looking forward to reading this book, but i was very dissapointed. The story started out slow and the events written were often repetitive. I did not enjoy this book, and i would not reccomend it unless you were dying for something to read.

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